Israeli company develops breathalyzer for coronavirus

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ISRAELL: An Israeli company is developing a coronavirus breathalyzer that gives results in 30 seconds, touting it as a “frontline” tool that can help restore a sense of normalcy during the pandemic.

NanoScent, the company that makes the test kits, said a thorough test in Israel for the presence of live viruses gave results with an accuracy of 85%, and the product could receive regulatory approval by now. some months.

Chief Executive Oren Gavriely told AFP the breathalyzer would not replace lab tests, but was a mass screening tool that could help people gain “the confidence to go back and act normally.” .

NanoScent has been operating for several years, specializing in rapid recognition technology, including for medical purposes.

Gavriely said that during a visit to the United States in January, he felt his company’s expertise might be needed to help fight the new virus circulating in Asia that appeared to be spreading to the West.

“We said we were going to invest a week in this and see what happens, and this week has never stopped,” he said.

The test begins with a few brief questions about COVID-19 exposure and symptoms, posted on the phone of the person administering the procedure.

Test subjects then inhale through their nose, hold their breath, close one nostril and exhale through the other, pushing their breath through a hand tube into a small bag called an “air trap”.

The tube is then plugged into the “Scent Reader”, a small rectangular device that purrs gently as it sucks air from the bag.

Within seconds, the results – “COVID-19 negative” during the AFP visit – appear on the phone.

Researchers at NanoScent headquarters in northern Israel are refining virus recognition technology, which is based on “odors and the odor model,” Gavriely said. After analyzing the breath of around 1,000 Israeli patients with COVID-19, the company was able to identify detectable odors associated with the virus, the chief executive added.

“We take a pattern, we record that pattern, and then we can detect if anyone has, or is suspected of having, COVID-19.” NanoScent’s technology looked “very promising,” said Nadav Davidovitch, director of the school of public health at Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva. Mass testing is crucial during a pandemic, he told AFP, adding that the NanoScent test could be a useful tool, provided it gets regulatory approval.

Until the NanoScent breathalyzer was used by some as a substitute for state-controlled lab tests, “I totally agree,” he said.

Gavriely told AFP he expected the test to be used at the entrances to concerts and hospitals, or in the aviation industry – noting that it was already in use at a major European sports venue, in a professional pilot.

If the breathalyzer result is positive, people should automatically be sent for a lab test, he said.

The device will likely cost less than $ 10 per test, “a fraction of the cost of the lab test,” Gavriely said.

Israel’s Defense Ministry’s research and development branch has been working to help NanoScent develop its testing system, with department head Daniel Gold recently telling AFP that rapid testing would be a game-changer against the pandemic.

Israel acted on the virus early in March and managed to reduce transmission to a trickle in early May, but with the economy reopening, cases have increased dramatically.

The country of nine million people has recorded more than 1,000 new cases a day in recent weeks, forcing further restrictions and public anger over the allegedly mismanaged reopening. – AFP

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