“The smell on the skin”: this machine captures Covid

“The smell on the skin”: this machine captures Covid
“The smell on the skin”: this machine captures Covid

The race of science and technology to stop the pandemic and to develop new tools suitable for tracking down and crushing Covid has recently produced a machinery from potentially fundamental uses: a sensor capable of detecting the presence of the coronavirus “in the air“. The development of this instrument, which now requires large-scale production, was announced by the innovative startup RoboScientific, which is headquartered in Littleport, near Cambridge, UK. The promising machine is called the model Voc analyzer. 307B, equipped with a series of 12 highly sensitive virus detectors.

The sensor in question, based on the description provided by the British company, is able to identify the virus in a closed environment in just 15 minutes, such as a room, perceiving a detail that is not always adequately screened by those who monitor the infections: the change of smell of the skin or breath manifested by those who are positive for Covid. In detail, those infected with the coronavirus have a distinct odor, resulting from changes in the volatile organic compounds (Vocs) that make up body odor; such anomalies of the Vocs therefore generate a “smell fingerprint“that the most advanced sensors, such as the one made by RoboScientific, can detect. The instrument designed by the English company, once it detects the anomaly in the body odor of infected people, immediately sends, thanks to a computerized system, an alarm message .

The effectiveness of the sensor designed by the aforementioned company was recently tested by experts from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Durham University. In particular, the university researchers examined from model 307B the traces of body odor present on socks worn and donated to the team of experts by 54 individuals: 27 Covid positive subjects who were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms and 27 uninfected individuals. Analyzes conducted by academics on the machinery ultimately ascertained that its sensors were able to distinguish between infected and non-infected samples, demonstrating that the latter has an accuracy 99%“in recognizing, in just 15 minutes, the olfactory traces of Covid. The head of the university research team, Professor James Logano, then enthusiastically described the potential of the RoboScientific product to the press:”These results are very promising and demonstrate the potential for using this technology as a rapid, non-invasive test with incredible accuracy – further testing is needed to confirm whether these results can be replicated anywhere. If these devices were successfully developed for use in public places, they could easily be expanded“.

By detecting early, through detecting the air and infected particles in people’s breath, the presence of a Covid patient in an enclosed space, the sensor, explained the managers of RoboScientific, would help health officials in a decisive way: if it were detected in a room with the smell of a positive at Covid sensor, all those present would be promptly subjected to a swab in a targeted manner to determine who was infected, thus favoring an important time and cost savings.

Currently the detector costs around 5000 euros, but the price, according to RoboScientific drigans, would decrease if it were produced on a large scale. The promising device in question, they pointed out, would have been developed by adapting previously used technologies “in chicken coops“to detect diseases in full flocks of up to 50,000 birds.

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