Concept: Singapore startup Breathonix has developed an easy-to-use breath test to detect COVID-19 within a minute. The technology is currently being tested collaboratively at the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

Nature of Disruption: The breath analysis technology functions by identifying volatile organic compounds (VOCs) existing in a person’s exhaled breath. VOCs are continually produced by several biochemical reactions in human cells. Different diseases cause specific changes to the compounds which result in identifiable changes in a person’s breath profile. Hence, VOCs can be measured as markers for diseases like COVID-19. The test is commenced by having an individual blow into a single-use mouthpiece connected to a high-precision breath sampler. This is then fed into a mass spectrometer for calibration. The result is generated after a special ML software analyses the VOC profile by generating a ‘bio-fingerprint of COVID-19’ in under 60 seconds.

Outlook: Breathonix’s quick breath test can help hospitals in the United Arab Emirates to meet the demand as the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 demand an average of 24-48 hours to provide results. The startup, prior to this collaboration, conducted an initial clinical trial with the National Centre of Infectious Diseases (NCID) in Singapore where the team achieved a sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 95% for the test. By implementing disposable mouthpieces and one-way valves, the company believes its breathalyzer system can potentially be used for mass screening in high-traffic areas, such as airports, hotels, sports venues, and transportation hubs.