Coronavirus: These 'smart' face masks can detect infected patients in hours

A team of researchers has designed 'smart' masks that can detect the presence of bacteria and viruses like the deadly coronavirus in infected individuals within hours

The coronavirus epidemic has claimed more than 2,900 lives and infected more than 85,000 people around the world. As the number of cases continues to escalate rapidly, governments and authorities are turning to technology like facial recognition, drones, and infra-red sensors to identify those infected with COVID-19 in a bid to contain the deadly virus and prevent it from spreading further.

Virus-detecting face masks

Now, suspected coronavirus patients can soon be diagnosed within just a few hours, thanks to these smart face masks. A team of researchers are currently testing the pioneering gadget, which has successfully managed to detect serious infectious bacterial diseases like tuberculosis.

virus-detecting masks
The University of Leicester

The masks, developed by the University of Leicester and the University of Pretoria, are equipped with 3D-printed strips that absorb droplets from the wearer's breath, which could be carrying traces of bacterial or viral infection.

The strips can then be tested in labs with results ready within a few hours. These masks could help cut down the time taken to diagnose suspected coronavirus patients, which takes up to 48 hours using current methods. The masks cost about $2.5 each but costs can be brought down further if they're manufactured on an industrial scale.

Will it work on Coronavirus patients?

Researchers believe it will still take two more months before the masks are ready to be tested on actual coronavirus patients. However, the team's lead researcher, Professor Mike Barer, is pretty confident that the masks will be just as effective at diagnosing COVID-19 as they have been with tuberculosis as the former is also a respiratory virus, which means it infects the lungs and is present in the air exhaled out by those infected.

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"This new approach is exciting because it could help us determine whether a person is infectious or not, even before symptoms of the virus have appeared," Barer told Daily Mail. "The mask can be processed in any standard virus diagnostic laboratory. The successful development of this approach could be transformative."

The Coronavirus is mainly spread through from the mouth, throat and respiration system of infected individuals and symptoms range from a fever and cough to shortness of breath.

Related topics : Coronavirus