Scientists at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are trying to apply the technology that worked to fight other diseases to this pandemic.
This invention could help stop the spread of COVID-19. A team of scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) develop a mask that glows when contaminated by the new coronavirus. It would greatly help in the fight against this global pandemic.
According to Business Insider, in 2014, the MIT bioengineering laboratory began to develop sensors to detect the Ebola virus when it underwent lyophilization (a dehydration process) on a piece of paper. This same technology was adapted to address the Zika virus outbreak.
Again, as part of their work on this subject, they’re conducting research to be able to help in the COVID-19 pandemic. In this case, they hope to create a mask that can produce a fluorescent color to identify the coronavirus. If successful, it would help complement current virus detection methods.
“As we open up our transit system, you could envision it being used in airports as we go through security, as we wait to get on a plane,” said Jim Collins, head of the MIT lab, in conversation with Business Insider.
“You or I could use it on the way to and from work. Hospitals could use it for patients as they come in or wait in the waiting room as a pre-screen of who’s infected” he added.
This could greatly facilitate the work of doctors in the midst of this pandemic. One of the peculiarities of this coronavirus, unlike previous outbreaks, is the lack of symptoms in patients that test positive, making contagion easier for those who think they’re healthy when in reality they’re just asymptomatic. Also, it would make the detection of cases much quicker.
For now, it’s just in the first phase – although expectations are very high. They hope to develop the detector’s design in a way in which the sensors can be embedded into any mask.
They hope to show in the coming weeks that this method works. “Once we’re in that stage, then it would be a matter setting up trials with individuals expected to be infected to see if it would work in a real-world setting,” Collins said.
It would just be a matter of adapting the sensors to this new coronavirus, since in 2018 this technology was able to detect the viruses that cause SARS, measles, influenza, hepatitis C, West Nile, in addition to other diseases.
“We initially did this on paper to create inexpensive paper-based diagnostics,” Collins said. “We’ve shown it can work on plastic, quartz, as well as cloth.”
The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be part of a long process, which is still far from over. However, this mask could help lower the rate of contagion around the world.