Researchers Develop Mask that Can Determine if Wearer Has COVID-19

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Harvard and MIT researchers are working to develop a face mask that can detect COVID-19.

MIT and Harvard researchers are in the process of developing face masks that can detect if the wearer has COVID-19, according to the Hill.

The researchers are using sensors developed in 2014 to combat Ebola and are recalibrating them. The masks would produce a bright signal when a person with the virus breathed, coughed, or sneezed. The mask development is still in the early stages, but results have been promising. The researchers hope to demonstrate a working mask in the next few weeks. "Once we're in that stage, then it would be a matter [of] setting up trials with individuals expected to be infected to see if it would work in a real-world setting," MIT researcher Jim Collins said.

The research team has been analyzing the sensor's ability to detect COVID-19 from saliva. Furthermore, the team is working to place sensors inside the mask and creating an attachment that can be attached to all types of masks. The sensor has worked for detecting other viruses, such as SARS, measles, influenza, hepatitis C and West Nile. The sensor works by absorbing moisture and detecting a viruses genetic sequence.

Collins said the mask could potentially be used for diagnosing coronavirus patients, as well as screening in areas of mass transit as coronavirus restrictions are lifted. "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," Collins said. "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."

The research team hopes to start mass production of the mask by the end of the summer.

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