The Food and Drug Administration approved a first-of-its-kind test for coronavirus detection using breath samples on Thursday. The government claims that the test provides results in three minutes, but cautions that it will miss roughly one in every ten positive cases.
The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer, roughly the size of a piece of carry-on luggage and designed by InspectIR Systems of Frisco, Texas, requires test subjects to blow into a straw linked to the device for up to ten seconds. According to the FDA, the breath test detected 91 percent of positive instances and more than 99 percent of negative cases in a trial of over 2,400 patients, placing it on a level with or better than newly allowed at-home nasal swab tests. In comparison to at-home testing, however, the breath test must be conducted by a skilled operator.
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Individuals who test positive on the breath test should subsequently undergo a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, the FDA stated.
According to experts, the breath test could potentially be employed as a quick-screening device at major events due to its ease of use and speedy turnaround time in comparison to rapid tests, which frequently took at least 15 minutes to complete.
“It appeared to be adequate, but not exceptional, in terms of sensitivity,” former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “So good as a belt and suspenders if you want an extra layer of protection at an occasion like the Gridiron dinner,” he added, alluding to the dozens of infections related to a banquet held in Washington this month.
Since Thursday’s approval of the InspectIR Breathalyzer, the FDA has received many requests from outside organizations about the device’s potential for use at large events, according to an agency official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss agency inquiries.
Additionally, officials stated that a noninvasive approach to coronavirus testing could broaden the pool of those willing or capable of being tested, but cautioned that the breath test is unlikely to be widely used in the foreseeable future. According to the FDA, InspectIR intends to build only approximately 100 systems each week, although manufacturers of other types of coronavirus tests, such as nasal swabs, have recently manufactured millions of devices.
“I’m thrilled to add another test to our arsenal of covid reaction tools. I’m particularly pleased that this new test has a high negative predictive value, which means that people who receive a negative result are truly negative, because it increases our confidence in identifying positive coronavirus tests as the prevalence of covid declines,” Beth Linas, a research epidemiologist at RTI International, a nonprofit scientific organization, wrote in an email.
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InspectIR, which has created devices to detect opiate or marijuana use, did not reply to a request for comment. The business stated in a tweet that it would “have a lot to say… in due time.”
Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, described the potential for a breath-based test as “exciting,” but cautioned that the United States was currently confronted with unrelated, short-term coronavirus testing challenges, such as a shift in testing approach that obscured the true extent of spread.
“So many at-home tests are being used,” Becker added, but the results are not being reported to authorities. “There is a blind spot.”