The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for the first COVID-19 test using exhalation samples. InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer Tests must be performed by a trained operator, but the FDA said it can give a result in about three minutes.
We asked two top doctors in Boston about this development in our weekly magazine COVID Q&A series. The doctors agreed that the new test adds to the country’s test arsenal and may prove useful in getting more people tested.
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“This is due to a new technology that is being explored where you can look at the metabolic signature caused by certain infections and diagnose the presence of some infection,” explained Brigham and Women’s Hospital director infectious diseases Daniel Kuritzkes.
Dr. Tufts Medical Centers Brian Chow reiterated his colleague, saying this new test is a positive step for the country.
“I think it’s always a plus to have additional COVID testing capacity, especially when COVID resources are strained,” he said. “There are also people who, due to medical issues, have trouble tolerating the nasal inoculation, so having the alternative way of being tested adds that layer of security to being able to test other people.”
However, the use of the new exhalation test will be limited in scope because it cannot be performed at home.
“This is not a home test because it requires sophisticated machinery, but it can be implemented at ports of entry, workplaces and different environments,” Kuritzkes said. “I think it’s good to have additional test modalities, and then we’ll see how this is implemented.”
“Rapid test clinics may be able to implement this, but it will require someone to leave their home to get a test,” Chow added.
The test uses equipment the size of a piece of hand luggage, which is why it cannot be used at home. The FDA says that if the test comes back positive, it should still be followed up by a molecular test.