Intriguing technology may find immediate value in assisting the detection and tracking of COVID-19 worldwide
Pathologists and clinical laboratory personnel old enough to have watched Star Trek on television will recall the tricorder, a multi-functional handheld device that could non-invasively detect any disease or medical condition that the science fiction series needed to be revealed. Fiction, yes, but so was the Star Trek communicator before the advent of smartphones.
Now, Florida-based Advanced Medical Solutions International (AMSI) anticipates bringing to market in early 2022 a similar tricorder-like handheld device that detects SARS-CoV-2 in humans and on contaminated objects and surfaces.
AMSI’s COVID Hunter™ device would be the world’s first noninvasive touchless viral detector for COVID-19, which has reportedly killed 4.55 million people worldwide. The inventors make the point that the device is simply to detect the presence of the coronavirus. It is not a diagnostic test.
For clinical laboratory scientists, this is yet another example of new technology being applied to a clinical problem that could ultimately lead to new diagnostic tools, not only for COVID-19, but ultimately for other viruses as well.
According to the COVID Hunter™ website, the device’s proprietary detection method utilizes a US-patent-pending detection technology that was initially invented by Engineer Nassar Said, a partner and inventor at AMSI. The method for detecting SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) utilizes the above patent-pending detection technology and was invented and developed by Nassar Said and Adeeb Al-Zoubi, PhD, immunologist, and AMSI co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer.
According to the inventors, the detection technology employed by the COVID Hunter™ utilizes a combination of radio frequency (RF) and infrared (IR) electromagnetic waves to detect the RNA and spike protein found in the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus with greater than 99% specificity and 99% sensitivity from as far as six feet away.
Al-Zoubi described the groundbreaking technology in a January 2021 news conference introducing the device. “This patent-pending technology uses a unique combination of light waves and sound waves combined to hone in on specific physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of SARS-CoV-2,” he said.
“We are basically surrounding the virus and characterizing the virus on all its characteristics all at once,” he continued. “Through focused research and tireless work, we at AMSI and Stem Cells Arabia [a Jordanian scientific research company] analyzed and specified these physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 and used these characteristics as one single value to target the detection by the COVID Hunter™.
“The sum of these specific SARS-CoV-2 characteristics is not found in any other virus or any other targets and constitutes a unique thumbprint of the virus,” he added.
The COVID Hunter™ introductory press conference noted:
- The COVID Hunter™ showed 100% accuracy and 100% specificity to detect only SARS-CoV-2 positive samples, distinguishing COVID-19 from viruses such as SARS-CoV-1, MERS, Influenza, and HIV,
- The COVID Hunter™ detected all PCR positive COVID-19 test samples among more than 4,000 nasal swabs.
- When more than 1,000 human subjects were tested with both PCR testing and the COVID Hunter™, the device confirmed as positive all confirmed COVID-19 cases.
- 4.8% of PCR false negatives in human subjects were accurately detected by the COVID Hunter™ as COVID-19 positive, indicating superior sensitivity to PCR testing.
- 76 out 94 confirmed COVID-19 positive individuals were shown to be infective, meaning they could transmit the disease.
- The COVID Hunter™ was able to track the mode of transmission of COVID-19 as the virus moved from hand to mouth to other people and objects. Developers found that a healthy individual who shook hands with an infected person could transmit the virus to a third party without becoming infected themselves.
- Researchers detected COVID-19 on the feet of domestic pets, indicating pets could transmit the virus to multiple persons within a household.
Al-Zoubi said nine months of research and development resulted in several COVID Hunter™ prototypes that demonstrated accuracy, specificity, and sensitivity in experiments using both nasal swab samples and confirmed COVID-19 patients residing in quarantine areas and hospitals in different countries.
“I am excited to see the COVID Hunter™ go from the prototype phase to a fully refined manufactured device that can be used to save lives around the world,” Al-Zoubi said in his concluding remarks.
Mass Production of COVID-Hunter
In an exclusive interview with Dark Daily, Redman and Al-Zoubi said they are seeking additional investor backing so they can shift from product refinement to high-volume manufacturing. If funding is secured this fall, their goal is to begin production in January 2022 of up to 30,000 units per month, which are projected to sell for $3,000 per device. Initially, the COVID Hunter™ would be marketed only as a COVID-19 detection tool under Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations.
Once manufacturing begins, AMSI will be able to submit the required number of COVID Hunter™ devices to the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for review, the final step in its application for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the COVID Hunter™ as a COVID-19 diagnostic device. The company expects its expedited EUA review to be completed by early spring.
AMSI notes that COVID Hunter™ can perform up to 300 scans per hour and does not use consumables other than batteries. This, according to Al-Zoubi, makes it a game-changing device for the travel industry, schools, businesses, restaurants, professional sports franchises, and concert venues seeking a return to “normal” operations.
The COVID Hunter™ also will be capable of being updated online to precisely detect new virus mutations, making it a critical weapon to defeat the pandemic as new COVID-19 mutations are found.
“This device is highly tested and it’s much more accurate than PCR [testing] because it detects the virus based on the physical presence of the virus, not based on chemical reactions or antibodies,” Al-Zoubi told Dark Daily. “We have gone beyond proof-of-concept testing.”
Clinical pathologists will want to follow development of the COVID Hunter™ and see if it eventually receives FDA approval. It may fulfill its promise as a game-changing new technology, not just for detection, but also for diagnosis.
The inventors and developers of the COVID Hunter™ will present their technology and its potential uses in detection and diagnosis at the upcoming Executive War College on Laboratory and Pathology Management, which takes place at the San Antonio Hyatt Riverwalk Hotel on Nov. 2-3, 2021.
Adeeb Al-Zoubi, PhD, and Nassar Said will conduct the session titled “New Technology Preview: Meet the COVID Hunter™, a Non-Invasive, Touchless, Immediate, and Portable Detection Device That Identifies the SARS-Cov-2 Virus.”
—Andrea Downing Peck