An easy-to-use breath test that can accurately detect Covid-19 within a minute has received provisional authorisation from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA).
The BreFence Go Covid-19 Breath Test System was developed by Breathonix Pte Ltd, a spin-off company from the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Breathonix is founded by three NUS graduates, Dr Jia Zhunan, Du Fang and Wayne Wee Shi Jie, along with Jia’s PhD advisor, Prof T Venky Venkatesan.
It is supported by the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP).
“The pandemic is likely to go on for several years. Mass, repeated testing has to be widely adopted as a key public health strategy to support the safe reopening of economies, and Breathonix’s home-grown technology hits the right spot.
“I’m confident that their novel technology will make a significant contribution towards protecting the safety and health of Singaporeans and the global community,” NUS GRIP deputy president of innovation and enterprise Freddy Boey said in a statement today.
Breathonix is working with the Singapore health ministry to run a deployment trial of its technology at one of the land checkpoints where incoming travellers will undergo screening with the BreFence Go Covid-19 Breath Test System.
The breath analysis will be carried out alongside the current compulsory Covid-19 antigen rapid test.
The BreFence Go Covid-19 Breath Test System works by detecting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in a person’s exhaled breath.
VOCs are produced by various biochemical reactions in human cells.
As the VOC signature from a healthy person’s breath varies from that of a person with an illness, changes in VOCs can be measured as markers for diseases like Covid-19.
The breath test is simple to administer by trained personnel and does not require medically trained staff or laboratory processing.
A person only needs to blow into a disposable one-way valve mouthpiece connected to a high-precision breath sampler.
The exhaled breath is collected and fed into a cutting-edge mass spectrometer for measurement.
A proprietary software algorithm analyses the VOCs biomarkers and generates results in less than a minute.
Any individual screened positive will need to undergo a confirmatory PCR Covid-19 swab test.
The breath analysis system underwent clinical trials at three locations from June 2020 to April 2021.
In Singapore, trials were carried out at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and Changi Airport while the third trial was carried out in Dubai, in collaboration with the Dubai Health Authority and the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences.