Breathalyzer Can Tell if You Have COVID in 3 Minutes

FDA grants emergency use authorization to breath test
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2022 12:41 AM CDT
First COVID Breath Test Authorized in US
A commuter wearing a face mask.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

(Newser) – A coronavirus breathalyzer could soon be coming to a doctor's office, hospital, or testing site near you. For the first time, a COVID-19 breath test has been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, USA Today reports. Patients blow into tubes in a manner similar to blowing up a balloon, and "gas chromatography gas mass-spectrometry" is used to analyze their breath samples for chemical compounds associated with COVID, CBS News reports. The process takes about three minutes to yield results. In a study by InspectIR Systems, the company that produces the breath test systems, positive samples were correctly identified 91.2% of the time, while negative samples were correctly identified 99.3% of the time. A follow-up study focused on the omicron variant found similar results.

"Today’s authorization is yet another example of the rapid innovation occurring with diagnostic tests for COVID-19," says an FDA director. "The FDA continues to support the development of novel COVID-19 tests with the goal of advancing technologies that can help address the current pandemic and better position the US for the next public health emergency." The FDA says a positive result from a breath test should be followed up with a molecular (PCR) test, just as it recommends for positive results from rapid tests. InspectIR Covid-19 Breathalyzers require the use of equipment that is about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, CNN reports, and will not be available for home or personal use. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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