Rapid, less intrusive coronavirus breath tests are set to roll out in the Netherlands, health officials there said.
Starting this week, testing facilities in Amsterdam began to use the so-called SpiroNose, a machine that works similarly to a breath alcohol test. A person simply breaths into the machine, which can detect a coronavirus infection within minutes, Reuters reported.
The machine is most reliable in detecting a negative test, Mariken van der Lubben, an infectious disease expert with Amsterdam’s municipal health services, told the outlet.
“If you are negatively tested, then it’s a very reliable outcome and you can go,” Van der Lubben said, noting that a positive test should be followed up with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Comparing the two will help researchers get a better understanding if the machine can distinguish between different types of viruses.
“That’s a game-changer if you can make a rapid diagnosis or rule out infection within a minute,” said Belgian virologist Marc Van Rans, to Reuters. He noted that more data is needed before the machine becomes the “future” in testing for COVID-19 infections.
Still, Dutch health officials have ordered some 1,800 SpiroNose machines to use at various testing facilities across the country soon. The machine, created by Breathomix, a Dutch health tech company, was originally made to detect asthma and lung cancer, according to Reuters. “In the past couple of months we have measured thousands of patients with corona and people who don’t have corona, so we know what is the average breath profile of corona and people without corona,” Breathomix executive Rianne de Vries told the news service.
In the U.S., researchers with the University of Miami are working on a similar breathalyzer device that they hope will be able to detect a coronavirus infection in under a minute.