An Australian company says it has developed a three-minute COVID-19 breath test and is seeking government funding for mass manufacture by the end of the year.
Port of Melbourne-based GreyScan told The Australian the “exciting” test could ultimately be used at airports, in aged care and other places to determine whether people were infectious.
Chief executive Sam Ollerton said the breath test detected SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but was yet to be submitted to health regulators for approved use.
“The breath test works … in under three minutes,” Ms Ollerton said. “But we haven’t gone to the Therapeutic Goods Administration or (US) Food and Drug Administration yet. This is still all laboratory testing, but the results are extremely promising. The next phase for us is commercialisation and mass manufacture. We are doing the rounds, seeking government funding to help expedite the mass manufacture.”
Ms Ollerton said it was expected the test, which it was hoped would also detect emergent COVID variants, would be rolled out by the end of the year. “Although we are able to identify and separate the SARS-CoV-2, there’s a lot of work to be done — we have to build this into an actual product,” she said.
The breath test aimed to improve on current rapid tests by showing how infectious someone was; not merely whether they had come into contact with the virus.
“It’s quite possible that you can test positive for SARS-CoV-2 on one of these (existing) rapid tests but actually you are not infectious and the other way around — you can be infections but test negative,” she said. “There’s a huge gap.
“There are about half a dozen other companies looking at breath (testing) but they are looking at disease markers as an identifiers.
“We are the only ones looking at level of infectivity and how infectious someone is.”
The company has partnered with the same researchers who helped it develop its current Eureka Prize-winning product: a highly sensitive and rapid test to detect traces of homemade explosives.
These are scientists at universities connected to the Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science, headed by the University of Tasmania’s Michael Breadmore. The research, seeking to apply the same detection technology for COVID as used for explosives, is co-funded by the CSIRO.
Ms Ollerton said the breath test had a wide range of applications, bringing not only accuracy and speed but also no discomfort.
Manufacturing of testing units would occur at the company’s Port of Melbourne plant, which currently produces the company’s explosive detectors.
Matthew Denholm, The Australian, 16 February 2021