With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, masks have become a major part of people’s lives. Seeing this opportunity, a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have developed a wearable biosensor technology, which can help face masks detect COVID-19 in your breath.
The study has been published in the Nature Biotechnology journal, with the title “Wearable materials with embedded synthetic biology sensors for biomolecule detection.”
According to the researchers, these wearable biosensors can be installed in standard KN95 face masks to identify if the virus was present in a person’s breath. The sensors are quick also, with them being activated and the readout strip getting the results within 90 minutes. Apart from the speed, the researchers have also said that the accuracy level of the test is the same as the standard PCR COVID tests.
According to Peter Nguyen, a co-author of the study, the team of researchers have “essentially brought an entire diagnostic laboratory into a small, synthetic biology-based sensor, which can be added to any face mask.” He also stated that the sensor has the high accuracy of PCR tests with the speed and low cost of antigen tests.
The study also mentions that apart from face masks, the biosensors can be integrated into other garments to provide on-the-go detection of dangerous substances, including viruses, bacteria, toxins, and chemical agents. For example, the sensors can be integrated into the uniforms of first responders and military personnel who could be exposed to dangerous pathogens or toxins.
The researchers are currently looking for manufacturing partners who can help them in producing these masks in large numbers and make them available globally. They did not detail the price of the sensor or how much it would cost to get a mask with an integrated sensor.