A breath test that aims to detect COVID-19 in under one minute has received provisional authorization from Singapore’s health authorities, the National University of Singapore (NUS) said in a statement on Monday.
Breathonix, the NUS spinoff that developed the rapid test, said it is now working with the Singapore Ministry of Health to run a deployment trial of the technology at one of the city-state’s border points with Malaysia. The breath analysis will be carried out alongside the current, compulsory COVID-19 antigen rapid test.
The Breathonix test has so far undergone clinical trials at three locations — two in Singapore and one in Dubai — conducted from June 2020 to April this year. It achieved a sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 95% in one early Singapore-based pilot study that involved 180 patients. A person who tests positive on the breath test will need to undergo a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 swab test, NUS said.
Breathonix said it is in discussion with several local and overseas organizations to use its system.
Separately, a U.K. study published on Monday, found that the COVID-19 infection has a distinct smell that can be detected by specially trained dogs, with up to 94% accuracy.
The study, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, was led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in collaboration with the charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University. It was based on six dogs who tested more than 3,500 odor samples donated by the public and National Health Service staff.
The dogs were able to detect odor from individuals who were asymptomatic, as well as those with two different strains, and with both high and low viral loads. Prof. James Logan, a disease-control specialist at LSHTM who led the project, said the main advantage of using sniffer dogs over other screening methods such as lateral flow testing is their “incredible speed and good accuracy among large groups of people.”
He added: “Further research is needed to see if the dogs can replicate these results in a real-world setting, but these findings are hugely encouraging.”
From the archives (September 2020): Helsinki Airport trials use of dogs to detect coronavirus in international arrivals