Science & Technology

Breakthrough: Singapore Approves One-Minute Covid-19 Breathalyser Test

BreFence Go Breathalyzer Test | Feature Image Credit: Reuters
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Confirmation from the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore makes the test the first of its kind to secure provisional approval in the country.

Authorities in Singapore have provisionally approved a COVID-19 breathalyser test developed by a startup linked to the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The startup, a company by the name of Breathonix, was started by three NUS graduates, who explained that the test works just like a standard breathalyser test, and can provide results within about 60 seconds.

Named BreFence Go, the test uses a machine-learning system that examines chemical compounds of the tester’s breath, and then compares it against a breath signature of a Covid-19-positive patient. The test was developed from a cancer detection method originally created by Breathonix.

BreFence Go breathalyzer test | Image Credit: Breathonix

“The breath test is simple to administer by trained personnel, but does not require medically trained staff or laboratory processing,” said Breathonix and NUS in a statement. “A person only needs to blow into a disposable one-way valve mouthpiece connected to a high-precision breath sampler.

“The exhaled breath is collected and fed into a cutting-edge mass spectrometer for measurement,” they added. “A proprietary software algorithm analyses the VOCs biomarkers and generates results in less than a minute.”

Breathonix has provided reports of the test having undergone three separate clinical trials — two in Singapore and one in Dubai — and it achieved a 93% sensitivity rating, as well as a 95% specificity rating in one particular Singapore-based session with 180 patients.

The Health Sciences Authority of Singapore confirmed the approval of the device on their website, which reportedly makes the Breathonix test the first of its kind to secure provisional approval in the country.

Singapore will now be using the BreFence Go breathalyser as a first step in a two-part testing process to screen visitors entering from Malaysia at the Tuas Checkpoint.

Singapore Tuas Immigration Checkpoint | Image Credit: BGC Group

Using the device along with conventional testing, if the breathalyser analyses a positive Covid result on someone, the person will immediately have to go for a PCR swab test. Reports add that the breathalyser will not be completely replacing the rapid antigen tests currently being administered at the checkpoint.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE FUTURE OF TESTING

As a viable testing method, the BreFence Go breathalyser could very well become instrumental to countries around the world with specific travel restrictions and protocols by detecting potential infections at a faster rate and with better accuracy.

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“The pandemic is likely to go on for several years. Mass, repeated testing has to be widely adopted as a key public health strategy to support the safe reopening of economies, and Breathonix’s home-grown technology hits the right spot,” said Professor Freddy Boey, the deputy president of innovation and enterprise at NUS.

Upon receiving provisional approval in Singapore, Breathonix and NUS said they are in discussion with several local and overseas organisations to use the system, citing strong commercial interest. Other countries, including Indonesia and the Netherlands, have rolled out similar breath tests.

A 60-second breath test receives provisional authorisation from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority



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