Researchers work on developing face mask that glows if wearer has coronavirus

  • A team of researchers from Harvard and MIT is currently developing a face mask that could detect if the wearer has the coronavirus.
  • The virus-identifying technology has been used for the Ebola virus in 2014 and the Zika virus in 2016.
  • The sensors, which will produce a fluorescent signal when the wearer has the coronavirus, can detect the virus through the person’s breath, sneeze, or cough.

Harvard and MIT research teams are currently developing a face mask that could detect if the wearer has the coronavirus.

MIT researcher Jim Collins told Business Insider that they began the development of the sensors back in 2014 to detect the Ebola virus.

In 2016, they adjusted the technology to detect the Zika virus.

Now, they seek to tailor the sensors to the coronavirus.

According to the Business Insider report, the face mask is meant to produce a fluorescent signal when the wearer has the coronavirus. The virus can be detected through the person’s breath, sneeze, or cough.

The sensors are made of genetic material that binds to a virus. They are activated when they come into contact with moisture and detect a virus’s genetic sequence.

Collins said that the results have been promising, but the project is still in its “very early stages.” The team is hoping to provide a demonstration within the next few weeks.

Trials will then be set up with “individuals expected to be infected to see if it would work in a real-world setting,” Collins said.

The researchers are currently conducting tests to check the sensor’s ability to detect the virus through a small saliva sample.

They are also looking for different ways to incorporate the sensors — whether it can be put inside a mask itself or created as a separate module that can be attached to over-the-counter masks. 

The research team’s virus-identifying technology has worked on several other viruses such as influenza, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, and West Nile.

The technology has also been proven to work on paper, cloth, plastic, and quartz, said Collins.

Collins expanded on the different ways the face mask could be useful: “Hospitals could use it for patients as they come in or wait in the waiting room as a pre-screen of who’s infected.”

“As we open up our transit system, you could envision it being used in airports as we go through security, as we wait to get on a plane. You or I could use it on the way to and from work.”

Collins told Business Insider that the research team aims to begin manufacturing the mask for public distribution by the end of summer.

Source: The Hill

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