Leuven developing rapid coronavirus test based on exhaled air
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Leuven developing rapid coronavirus test based on exhaled air

Credit: Belga

The Imec technological research centre and the University Hospital of Leuven are working on the development of a coronavirus test based on exhaled air that would deliver a result within five minutes, Imec and Flemish Innnovation Minister Hilde Crevits announced.

The aim is to have a prototype ready for use in the summer of 2021, Crevits said on Thursday.

The disadvantage of the most commonly used test, the PCR, is that it has to be carried out by qualified nursing staff and the result arrives several days later.

Antigenic tests (also known as rapid tests) are considered less reliable because of their complexity. Finally, serological tests, based on a blood sample, can only check a patient’s antibody production.

The solution developed in Leuven is supposed to confirm in less than five minutes whether a person is a carrier of the virus and whether they are more or less likely to transmit it.

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“It is also important that our solution is very easily accessible: it uses the virus particles in the microscopic, aqueous particles present in exhaled air. After all, research has shown that these particles are the main transmission route for the virus,” said Peter Peumans, CTO Health Technologies at Imec.

“If the solution we are developing produces good results, testing for the transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2 virus will be much easier, faster and on a larger scale,” he said.

Imec is also looking to the future, as they want the test “to be able to respond quickly and flexibly to the spread of other viruses and germs that spread via exhaled particles – such as influenza, RSV and tuberculosis.”

Crevits announced support of €2 million for the project.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times