A COVID breath test? Rutgers scientists are developing one

Daniel J. Munoz//April 28, 2021

A COVID breath test? Rutgers scientists are developing one

Daniel J. Munoz//April 28, 2021

A group of four Rutgers University researchers are developing a breathalyzer they hope can test someone for COVID-19.

The proposal calls for a type of breathalyzer that collects the particles of breath into an electronic biosensor, and then quickly produces a result “in minutes and without the need for an uncomfortable swab test.”

Edward DeMauro, the project’s lead researcher, said the aim is to have a turnaround in no more than 10 minutes.

“In addition to helping diagnose COVID-19, the goal of the project is to create a platform that can be expanded into a future, easy-to-use, non-invasive rapid breathalyzer to diagnose respiratory diseases, including possible future pandemics,” reads an April 27 statement from DeMauro, an assistant professor at Rutgers’ Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

He’s working on the project with fellow researchers German Drazer, Hao Lin and Mehdi Javanmard. The proposal was awarded a two-year federal grant from the National Institute of Health’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics program, and it’s being overseen by the Rutgers HealthAdvance Fund.

Tests for COVID-19 have been a key part of business reopenings. Under the regulations Gov. Phil Murphy has signed over the past year, workers who test positive for COVID-19 are typically made to work from home, and self-isolate while awaiting their results if they suspect an infection.

“There are plenty of existing tests, including Rutgers’ saliva tests, that are also minimally invasive. And for reopening large venues, we also want to get results quickly at the point of administration,” DeMauro continued.

At the onset of the pandemic, wait times for COVID-19 tests could last upwards of two weeks, though that wait time was eventually whittled down to a number of days.