Clinical trials for a new, non-invasive, COVID-19 breath test will begin in Johannesburg at the end of June. The trial is being run by the Ezintsha group, a part of the Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute, in collaboration with US-based Canary Health Technologies.
According to Canary Health Technologies, the diagnostic test may be able to identify acutely infected coronavirus patients and those who have not yet developed clinical symptoms, using Volatile Organic Compounds found in breath which is exhaled.
“We are very excited to partner with Canary on this game-changing technology. The holy grail is a real time, point of care device which can capture Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC as biomarkers. This could revolutionise testing for COVID, to then build a base to detect many other diseases. A noninvasive and accurate test that healthcare workers can carry in their pockets is a win-win for all,” said Professor Francois Venter, a world-renown infectious diseases expert, and Head of Ezintsha.
The company has reported that the test should be able to produce results within 5 minutes of testing.
“We are confident that our highly responsive sensors and proprietary software can detect COVID-19 in less than 5 minutes without the need of a lab. This handheld device with disposable sensors is ideal for use in doctors’ offices, nursing homes, airports and should be available before the end of the year. We aim to set the gold standard in COVID detection,” said Raj Reddy, CEO of Canary Health Technologies.
While trials are set to begin in Johannesburg as soon as the end of June, additional trials are also planned in the U.K and the U.S.
Phase one of the trial will make use of nano-sensors to collect breath samples of patients who are COVID-19 positive and use “cloud-based pattern recognition technology to determine if a COVID-19 breath pattern can be established with accuracy.”
Since the tests are analysed in a cloud-based system, they will be able to detect the disease from the time of infection and will provide real-time surveillance. Health officials will thus be able to identify hotspots quickly and respond as such, Canary Heathy Technologies claims.
The first phase of testing will involve the collection of breath samples from 150 people, some of which will be COVID-19 positive and others who are not.
Participants will be required to breathe into the device for 3 minutes, and the device will then translate their breathe biomarkers into electronic signals which are transmitted to the cloud for analysis.
Results for the humans trials which begin at the end of June are expected at the end of July.