A team of scientists, which was previously known for developing sensors that can detect the Ebola virus from a piece of paper, from MIT and Harvard University has now announced that they will be working on the same technology to make sensors that can detect the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2.
Previously, the team, led by Jim Collins had published their initial works in 2016 which were later developed further in order to control the threat of the Zika virus in the world.
Now, the same technology will be used for developing sensors that can help in diagnosing coronavirus. More specifically, scientists are interested in making a coronavirus mask that can give a fluorescent signal whenever the person wearing it releases coronavirus onto the mask via talking, sneezing, or coughing.
If the team is successfully able to develop the mask, it can play a fundamental role in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic specifically by overcoming the issue with the existent diagnostic technologies for SARS-CoV-2.
Jim Collins comments on the potential new technology, saying “As we open up our transit system, you could envision it being used in airports as we go through security, as we wait to get on a plane,”
“You or I could use it on the way to and from work. Hospitals could use it for patients as they come in or wait in the waiting room as a pre-screen of who’s infected.” He adds.
In addition, health care workers can use the technology and see whether a person has COVID-19 or not on the spot without testing and waiting for results from a laboratory.
Since the health care systems in nearly all countries are being strained, there is a lack of spaces, services, and tests needed for the quick detection of coronavirus.
This is one of the primary reasons why the virus was able to spread on a mass scale as many of the hospital and health care places did not have enough facilities and medical equipment to handle the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
According to Collins, the research on the mask for the detection of the coronavirus is still in its very early stages as the investigation started only a few weeks ago. So far, the team is testing the effectiveness of the sensors in detecting the coronavirus in saliva samples.
There are also developments in the design of the mask. Two models have been proposed for the senors. Either the sensors can be added directly into the masks or the sensors can be added to a module that can then be attached to the mask.
Within a few weeks, the team hopes to set up a trial soon after finalizing the design in order to test the efficacy of the mask in the real world. Overall, the effectiveness of the technology has been proven in previous works of the team.
The technology used in the new masks has successfully detected Influenza, West Nile, SARS, hepatitis C, and measles. The initial purpose of it was to create an economical way of diagnosis on quartz, plastic, and cloth.
If the masks are developed and released in the market in the next few months, they can help to a significant extent in tracing new cases of COVID-19 in addition to providing a faster alternative to conventional testing.
Secondly, the current test approved by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention for COVID-19 diagnosis costs around thirty-six dollars which is not exactly affordable for people. In commercial labs, the test may even be more expensive.
Therefore, the medical community on the world is hoping for the team led by Collins to be able to develop the coronavirus mask as it can solve many problems with the pandemic at a time.