SAN DIEGO – Researchers at UC San Diego are experimenting with new test strips that change color if they detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a person’s breath or saliva.
The tapes can be attached to any mask and are designed to detect “protein-cleaving molecules” produced by a virus infection, the university said in a statement Thursday.
Although not intended to replace COVID-19 test protocols, project chief researcher Jesse Jokerst said they offer a “surveillance approach” similar to a smoke detector.
“In many ways, masks are the perfect” wearable “sensor for our current world,” said Jokerst, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “We take what many people already carry and redirect them so we can quickly and easily identify new infections and protect vulnerable communities.”
Users will be able to perform the tests themselves when they take off their respective masks, the researchers say. Each comes with its own blister pack, which can be squeezed out, changing color if SARS-CoV-2 proteases are identified, according to the university.
The tapes – developed with $ 1.3 million in funding from National Institutes of Health – are ideal for higher-risk facilities, such as homeless shelters or prisons, to detect infections earlier and more often to reduce potential spread, the Jokerst said. .
The researchers are working with the UC San Diego School of Medicine to test the bands on positive COVID-19 samples. They also plan to conduct trials on patients and healthcare professionals within the San Diego Veterans Health System.
“It’s just going to be in the background every day, and if it works, then you know there’s a problem, and that’s when you’d look at it with more sophisticated tests,” Jokerst said.
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