Scientists at Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University in the western province of Balıkesir started working on developing a landmark test kit to detect COVID-19. The project aims to detect infections by scanning the user’s breath in only 15 seconds.
The university’s project is supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). The university’s president, professor Süleyman Özdemir, told Ihlas News Agency (IHA) on Tuesday that they recently received an endorsement from TÜBITAK and that it would be a joint project with the NSFC. “Swab tests are used for coronavirus detection currently, but with a breath test, more accurate results will be acquired,” he said. “This device will resemble the breathalyzer used by police against drunk drivers. TÜBITAK will produce sensors and the NSFC will provide a data set for the project. China will help to collect breath samples both from COVID-19 patients and those not infected. It is a globally significant project and will be used not just for coronavirus but for detecting similar diseases,” he said.
Turkish scientists have been working on test kits since the beginning of the pandemic. In September, scientists at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University announced that a new test kit that gives results in just eight minutes was developed by its scientists.
In August, researchers at the La Croix-Rousse Hospital in Lyon, France announced the development of a similar breath test for COVID-19. The noninvasive screening utilizes a machine that tests droplets as patients exhale into a tube, much like a standard breathalyzer test. In just a few seconds, results are delivered on the particular chemical compounds found in one's breath, and thus can detect whether a person is a carrier of the coronavirus or not.
The rapidity of the test as well as its method of implementation is its biggest pluses, unlike the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test most commonly used by clinicians in screening for the disease. The PCR is also known as a swab test and is carried out by inserting a very long swab deep into the nasal cavity. The breath test machine has been implemented with success on dozens of patients at the hospital over the past three months.