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French hospital develops breath test for COVID-19

Breathalyzer checks for coronavirus in patients, could pave way for wider non-invasive screening

Cindi Cook  | 03.08.2020 - Update : 03.08.2020
French hospital develops breath test for COVID-19


Researchers at the La Croix-Rousse Hospital in Lyon, France have developed a breath test for COVID-19.

The non-invasive screening utilizes a machine which tests droplets as patients exhale into a tube, much like a standard breathalyzer test. In just a few seconds, results are delivered on the particular chemical compounds found in one's breath, thus whether a person is a carrier of coronavirus or not.

The rapidity of the test as well as its method of implementation are its biggest pluses, unlike the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test most commonly used by clinicians in screening for the disease. The PCR is also known as swab test, and carried out by inserting a very long swab deep into the nasal cavity.

After originating in China last December, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has spread to 188 countries and regions across the world. The virus has killed almost 30,300 people in France, with total infections reaching over 225,000. Some 81,800 patients have recovered, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of almost 690,000 people with infections now nearing 18.1 million. The US, Brazil, India, and Russia are currently the worst-hit regions.

The breath test machine has been implemented with success on dozens of patients at the hospital over the past three months.

"We are pretty sure we are on the right track," Christian George, director of the National Center of Scientific Research at Croix-Rousse, said in an interview with Radio France International. Quick to express that the test could advance the medical diagnostics for COVID-19, George added: "We remain cautious."

The difficulties: The machine is not yet available to the wider public and may only be accessible to the health care community at end of the year. It has only just passed its first trial phase and entering into its second.

With the present machine used at Croix-Rousse the size of a refrigerator, researchers are aiming to develop less expensive and sizable models for future use.

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