"This could have a really profound impact on the trajectory of the pandemic," Jesse Jokerst, an associate professor at UC San Diego, told KGTV.
This device may be helpful if you're healing from COVID at home
The test looks for the presence of a specific COVID-19 protease in people's breath. As someone wears the sticker on the mask throughout the day, it collects droplets.
"At the end of the day, you click a little blister pack, and if it changes color, that means that you might have been exposed to COVID and that you should seek out some additional testing," Jokerst said.
The National Institutes of Health just gave UC San Diego $1.3 million to develop this sticker and assess its accuracy to enhance surveillance of the disease around the world.
The test uses a technique called "Colorimetric Detection," similar to home-pregnancy test indicators.
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Jokerst likens it to a smoke alarm. The test won't tell you exactly what's going on, but it serves as a warning that you need to take further action for safety.
"That's what we were trying to develop. It's a device that could say, 'Hey, today there's an elevated risk, and everybody should seek some additional testing,'" Jokerst explained.
This kind of color-based test has never been used for viral detection.
Jokerst says that once the pandemic ends, these tests could still assess the risk of diseases like SARS and MERS.
KGTV contributed to this report.
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