Dubai conducting trials of new 60-second covid test

Eudore R. Chand

DUBAI 14 March 2021: Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Breathonix Pte Ltd are currently carrying out a joint clinical trial to assess the accuracy of an easy-to-use breath test to detect Covid-19 within one minute.

The trials are being conducted at DHA’s Nadd Al Hamar primary health care centre on 2,500 patients.

Breathonix, a spin-off company from the National University of Singapore (NUS), has developed this test. The company previously conducted a Singapore-based pilot study that involved 180 patients and achieved a sensitivity of 93 percent and specificity of 95 percent with machine learning algorithm.

The technology is very simple to use. A person only needs to blow into a disposable mouthpiece connected to a high-precision breath sampler. The exhaled breath is collected into a breath sampler and fed into a cutting-edge mass spectrometer for measurement. A machine learning software analyses the volatile organic compound (VOC) profile and generates the result in less than a minute, said Wam.

Dr. Hussain Al Samt, Director of Pathology and Genetics Department at the DHA, said: “In line with the vision of the leadership of the UAE, DHA is keen to foster medical research and innovation. We have collaborated with national and international institutes in the field of research and innovation particularly for Covid-19 to implement path-breaking technologies, which can drastically improve diagnostics and care for Covid-19 patients. This technology is certainly very promising particularly because the speed of diagnosis is just 60 seconds per patient. This kind of rapid diagnosis has a potential to be a game-changer in the global fight against Covid-19.”

Dr. Nada Al Mulla, Director of DHA’s Nadd Al Hamar Primary Healthcare Sector, said: “If approved and implemented; this technology will significantly reduce the burden on laboratory processing. It will drastically reduce the time taken to get the results in comparison to the presently available testing methods such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The breath test for screening Covid-19 is highly efficient for mass screening especially in areas of high-traffic.”

Dr. Hanan Al Suwaidi, Lead Investigator of the study, Head of the Testing Stream in Dubai’s Covid19 Command & Control Center, and Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, MBRU, said: “MBRU has been a catalyst in the region in the field of medical research and innovation; we have been conducting impactful research particularly with regard to Covid-19 and we have collaborated with national as well as international organizations to conduct our research. Prior to this, we conducted a study on the accuracy of saliva testing for Covid-19 for children and post the research; the technology was implemented across certain DHA centres. The world has seen how medical research, innovation and technology have helped in the global fight against Covid-19. We are keen to further strengthen research in the field of tech-transfer as technology has the potential to radically improve healthcare processes, healthcare management and most importantly patient outcomes.”

Dr. Jia Zhunan, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Breathonix, said: “The breath analysis technology that we have developed offers a fast and convenient solution to identify Covid-19 infection. It works by detecting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) present in a person’s exhaled breath. VOCs are consistently produced by various biochemical reactions in human cells. Different diseases cause specific changes to the compounds, resulting in detectable changes in a person’s breath profile. As such, VOCs can be measured as markers for diseases like Covid-19.”


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