Coronavirus (COVID-19) Most Read

Thu 14 May 2020:

Sensors in face mask would light up to signal the presence of the new coronavirus when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes

Researchers with Harvard and MIT are developing a face mask that can detect if the wearer is infected with coronavirus, media outlets report.

When saliva comes into contact with the fabric, whether through coughing, sneezing or just talking, a special material lining the mask will turn fluorescent if coronavirus is present, according to Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

If development is successful, the mask could be a powerful new tool against the virus, allowing for faster detection, and potentially greater accuracy, James Collins, an MIT professor of bioengineering involved with the project, told Business Insider.

“As we open up our transit system, you could envision it being used in airports as we go through security, as we wait to get on a plane,” Collins said. “You or I could use it on the way to and from work. Hospitals could use it for patients as they come in or wait in the waiting room as a prescreen of who’s infected.”

As countries around the world get up and running again, many are relying on temperature checks to detect infected individuals and pluck them out of circulation where they might otherwise kick off a new outbreak, outlets report.

But coronavirus can be coursing through someone’s body for days without causing a fever or other symptoms, experts say, and so temperature checks might miss someone who is asymptomatic or presymptomatic.

That’s not a problem the mask will have.

Symptoms or no, if coronavirus touches the inside, it should show within three hours, Collins said in an interview with the Allen Institute.

Fluorescent light is needed to see if there’s been a reaction.

“The signal could be detected by a simple, hand-held device. If it hasn’t, you could take with some confidence that at present you’re not infected,” he told the Allen Institute. “If the mask does produce a fluorescence signal, the protocol would likely be contact your physician, as well as to immediately begin to self-isolate.”

Collins added that although the team is in the early stages of development, he is hopeful the mask will be publicly available this summer.

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