COVID detecting mask could be on the way

Engineers are working on a face mask sensor to detect COVID.
Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 1:20 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - A team at the University of California-San Diego School of Engineering is working to develop a sensor that would stick to your face mask and detect COVID-19 in your breath.

“So what we’re trying to do rather than testing is surveillance,” said Dr. Jesse Jokerst of Jokerst Bioimaging Lab.

Jokerst is leading a team of engineers and scientists on a sensor sticker you’d wear on your mask to test for COVID-19, daily.

“Just imagine you would have a roll of stickers and as you head out in the day you put one of these on,” said Jokerst. “You would breathe through it and at the end of the day you click a little blister pack and if the liquid changes colors that means you need to take some more action”

Jokerst says the sensors would be able to detect the virus in particles from your breath and saliva.

“You can kind of think of this like a smoke detector.”

By that he means it would alert you that something’s wrong and you need to take a test to confirm infection.

The National Institutes of Health awarded UC-San Diego $1.3 million to develop the wearable sensors.

“If everyone had this sticker available and could test every day and it would more quickly stem these outbreaks and more quickly direct (that) you need better testing,” said Jokerst.

Jokerst’s team is working on refining their prototypes for approval this summer. He believes the sensors could be ready to use by year’s end.

“Even if this doesn’t come out in time to treat the U.S. pandemic, parts of the world will still not have full access to vaccines until 2022 and 23, so we would imagine it having utility there.”

Once the pandemic ends, Jokerest says the tests could also be used to detect other coronavirus outbreaks, including MERS and SARS.

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