ROLLA — Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology are developing an electronic sensor that can detect viruses by analyzing someone’s breath.
The technology could be used in the future to manage the spread of an epidemic like coronavirus. The prototype of the sensor is designed to be a first-level screening for viral diseases that affect the lungs.
“We thought if we had a sensor that had a chance of detecting the disease or the virus, or both, in an individual through their breath, that we could bring that to bear for multiple testing scenarios,” said Rex Gerald II, a professor in electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T who is working on the project.
The device could be used as an initial screening for patients at doctor’s offices, or in public places like airports.
“This information could be provided to a doctor remotely, and also to a center that is monitoring what is happening in the community,” Gerald said. “Then there is a much higher chance that the discovery of the initial spreading of the virus can be identified and mitigated.”
The researchers also envision the sensor being used to passively monitor enclosed places for the presence of a variety of viruses.
“For example, in an enclosed space, in an air recirculation system in a hospital or in an airplane, so you could, in real time, monitor the presence and concentration of a virus,” said Jie Huang, a Missouri S&T professor also working on the project.
Huang also said that once the technology is proven to work in clinical trials, it could even be available in a unit for use at home, to give people peace of mind that they aren’t sick, or give them information that could signal a need to see a doctor.
While it’s unlikely the technology could be ready to fight the current coronavirus outbreak, it could be refined well in advance of the next pandemic. Gerald and Huang said they are meeting with people interested in funding the next level of testing.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl
Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org