Face Masks That Detect COVID-19 by Lighting Up

Scientists at Harvard and MIT are working together to develop a technology used in face masks that can detect COVID-19 by lighting up.

Researchers and scientists from Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are trying to create face masks that detect COVID-19. The virus called COVID-19, better known as coronavirus, has wreaked havoc across the globe. There is hardly any place on Earth that this virus has not spread to. Being declared as a pandemic, COVID-19 has taken many lives.

Remdesivir, the drug that is used to treat COVID-19, is under process and being manufactured. But till then, many others are trying to develop new and effective ways to curb the virus. Led by Jim Collins, a bioengineer at MIT, the team is racing to develop a face mask that can detect COVID-19. The technology developed to detect Ebola and Zika virus will be tried to be used.

If the efforts are successful, then we may see a new alternative way to detect COVID-19. Detection through fluorescent face masks could speed up the testing process as it will be more fast and efficient. The current testing takes some time, however, this will result in instant results. This would mean that testing capacity will increase, but only if there is a breakthrough in the experiment.

face masks

The lead bioengineer also mentioned that the technology is still in its early stages. However, it has shown promising results so far. He, along with his team, has been testing saliva samples to see if the fluorescent technology is able to detect the novel coronavirus. The design has also not been finalized and the team is working upon it. Whether these specialized masks should be created separately or develop a module that can be attached to any over-the-counter mask is yet to be decided.

Jim Collins also mentioned that they have not reached the testing phase. However, the concept and working will be demonstrated in the coming few weeks. He said:

“Once we’re in that stage, then it would be a matter setting up trials with individuals expected to be infected to see if it would work in a real-world setting,”

The lab has previously developed sensors capable of detecting viruses that cause SARS, measles, influenza and hepatitis C, among other diseases. The sensors developed by the lab are made up of a combination of DNA and RNA, that binds to a virus and is then freeze-dried onto fabric. It can stay on the fabric for several months, which increases the shelf life of these face masks.

When these sensors are activated when they come in contact with moisture, such as respiratory particles like mucus or saliva in combination with a genetic sequence of the virus. The sensors then produce a fluorescent signal within one to three hours. However, it’s not visible to the naked eye. A device called a fluorometer is used to measure the fluorescent light.

face masks

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