Singapore startup develops 60-second COVID-19 breathalyzer test

Singapore’s Breathonix has said a clinical trial of its COVID-19 breathalyzer test was able to achieve at least 90% accuracy after screening participants on-site for 60 seconds.

The company’s test uses mass spectrometry to analyze the thousands of volatile organic compounds that people exhale with every breath, to establish a specific signal among those with an active coronavirus infection.

Using a machine learning algorithm, this generates a “bio-fingerprint of COVID-19,” said co-founder and CEO Jia Zhunan. "Based on more than six years of research at the National University of Singapore, we have developed [a] highly sophisticated proprietary breath sampling technique and analytical method to achieve high accuracy, sensitivity and specificity.”

The NUS spinout said its ongoing pilot study of 180 people, conducted by the city-state’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases, showed an overall sensitivity of 93% and a specificity of 95%. Breathonix said more trials will be required to improve and validate the accuracy of the technology.

RELATED: Owlstone's breath-based biopsy test spots signs of declining liver function

By incorporating disposable mouthpieces and one-way valves, the company said its breathalyzer system could potentially be used for mass screening in high-traffic areas, such as airports, hotels, sports venues and transportation hubs. In addition, Breathonix estimated the total cost could reach $20 per test.

"The company is ready to deploy pilots in Singapore in the coming weeks and to extend to international pilots in the coming months, pending regulatory approval," said co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Du Fang.