Covid breakthrough: Scientists develop ‘more accurate’ breathalyser test to detect cases

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In a new study published in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, researchers have described the design and testing of a breathalyzer, known as the Bubbler. This machine relies on viral RNA detection to diagnose cases of Covid. It was called the Bubbler because of ​​the bubbling sound that occurs when the patient exhales into the device.

Not only does this machine reverse transcribe RNA from airborne virus particles into DNA to be tested via PCR, but it can also barcode that DNA.

This allows samples to be linked directly to the patient they have come from and be used for sequencing.

According to the paper, this method can be used for collecting simultaneous batches of pooled samples, while also providing additional information such as viral load and strain identity.

It also eliminates the need for stabilizing a sample, which can potentially allow the test to be performed at home.

The lead investigator, Professor William G. Fairbrother, PhD, said: “Involvement of the lower respiratory tract is often a precursor to severe COVID-19, so there is an argument for a more direct sampling focused on exhaled breath.”

Professor Fairbrother works in the department of molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry at Brown University in Providence, RI, U.S.

While the virus detection by the Bubbler is similar to that of a hospital-swab PCR test, the scientists believe it is a better measure of the risk of contagion because it detects airborne viral particles.

One of the downsides to a swab test is that it can return a positive result for months after infection as they detect viral RNA fragments in cells that persist in previously infected cells.

The study said: “The significance of sampling airborne viral particles is the key advantage of the Bubbler over other technologies.

“Whereas the Bubbler can measure active infections, other techniques cannot distinguish active infections from prior events that have been resolved.”

According to investigators, the Bubbler can also be adapted for environmental sampling in hospitals, transportation hubs, and closed environments like offices, ships, and planes.

The Bubbler consists of a glass tube with a glass pipette through which patients can exhale.

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This tube is filled with a reverse transcription reaction mixture and cold mineral oil.

Professor Fairbrother said: “The Bubbler is more likely to be a better indicator of current infection than nasopharyngeal swabs.”

“Another advantage is the barcoding, which enables high-throughput RNA virus testing at a fraction of the cost of conventional testing.

“The barcode returns a viral sequence that also supports strain identification, which may prove useful as more information is learned about transmissibility and possible strain-specific treatment decisions.”

The researchers also found that the Bubbler might be adapted to detect the virus in airborne samples.

This means that industries like hotels, cruise ships, and casinos could potentially use such machines to detect the presence of Covid-19 particles in the air.

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