A bomb detector used by the US Air Force can be modified to identify severe covid-19 symptoms early, making it easier to treat the disease caused by the new coronavirus and helping to save lives.
The project, led by scientists from the US Air Force Research Laboratory in partnership with the University of Michigan and researchers from the Advanced Intelligence Research Projects Activity (Iarpa), consists of converting the explosives detector and chemical weapons in a device capable of analyzing the air exhaled by people.
The new version of the device, based on the gas chromatograph from Iarpa’s MAEGLIN program, works as a kind of breathalyzer. It has the ability to detect the chemical signature of severe acute respiratory syndrome in its early stages, enabling easy and quick identification of patients who require more attention.
This type of respiratory complication is associated with many deaths from covid-19, so its early detection can help determine which patients will need respirators and other care before the coronavirus does more damage to the lungs.
Tests in progress
Four prototypes of the modified device were developed in less than 1 week and are already being tested by researchers at the University of Michigan in non-military intensive care units (ICUs) with patients infected with Sars-CoV-2 and healthy adults from a control group . The first results should be released soon, with the help of machine learning algorithms for a more precise analysis.
A similar device had already been developed by the National Institutes of Health and tested on patients with respiratory complications unrelated to the coronavirus, but it did not achieve the same analytical capability as MAEGLIN, which left scientists more hopeful about good results now.