Breathalyzers for COVID-19? Scientists say it's possible

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Scientists across the globe are developing breath-based COVID-19 tests to rapidly identify individuals carrying the virus, The New York Times reported July 11. 

The devices analyze chemical compounds in people's breath to detect unique patterns that signify COVID-19 infection. Researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus say they're seeking FDA emergency authorization for their COVID-19 breathalyzer. Singapore's health agency already granted provisional authorization to two such tests in May. A Dutch company's SpiroNose test was even used to screen Eurovision Song Contest contestants for the virus this spring.

"It's clear now, I think, that you can detect this disease with a breath test," Paul Thomas, a chemist at Loughborough University in England, told the Times. "This isn't science fiction."

Creating portable devices that can quickly screen for diseases has long been on scientists' radars. But acting on this idea has proven challenging, as diet can affect the chemicals one exhales and different diseases may create similar chemical patterns, the Times said. 

But the pandemic has spurred new research and investment into the area that, when combined with advancements in sensor technology and machine learning, could make disease-detecting breathalyzers a reality, according to the report.

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