A group of researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is now developing a face mask sensor that can help detect coronavirus.
According to UCSD, SARS-CoV-2 can be detected in a user’s saliva or breath with a color-changing test strip or sticker that can be attached to any mask—be it N95, surgical, or cloth. “They will be designed to detect the presence of protein-cleaving molecules, called proteases, that are produced from infection with the virus,” as stated in their news release.
A new tool for monitoring #COVID19 may one day be right under your nose: color-changing test strips that can be stuck on masks and used to detect SARS-CoV-2 in a person’s breath or saliva. New project led by @UCSanDiego nanoengineer Jesse Jokerst: https://t.co/WMzlCCpHe6 pic.twitter.com/0pa9BpfQao— UCSD Engineering (@UCSDJacobs) January 21, 2021
“In many ways, masks are the perfect ‘wearable’ sensor for our current world. We’re taking what many people are already wearing and repurposing them, so we can quickly and easily identify new infections and protect vulnerable communities,” said the project’s lead principal investigator Jesse Jokerst, who is also a professor of nanoengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
How much would it cost? While its specific amount is yet to be disclosed, the researchers clarified that the project “is aimed at providing simple, affordable, and reliable surveillance for COVID-19 infections that can be done daily and easily implemented in resource-poor settings.”
“The test strips can be easily mass produced via roll-to-roll processing,” they shared. “This would keep the costs down to a few cents per strip.” Additionally, Jokerst said such would make it easier for areas and establishments at high risk to monitor new infections sooner and more regularly in order to curb its spread.
It should be noted, however, that the new tool is “not meant to replace current COVID-19 testing protocols.”
“Think of this as a surveillance approach, similar to having a smoke detector in your house. This would just sit in the background every day and if it gets triggered, then you know there’s a problem and that’s when you would look into it with more sophisticated testing,” he explained.
Article thumbnails from UC San Diego's Twitter account