Clinical laboratories and point-of-care settings may have a new diagnostic test if this novel handheld device and related technology is validated by clinical trials
Efforts to develop breath analyzers that accurately identify viral infections, such as SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza, have been ongoing for years. The latest example is ViraWarn from Opteev Technologies in Baltimore, Maryland, and its success could lead to more follow-up PCR tests performed at clinical laboratories.
ViraWarn is a pocket-size breath analyzer that detects COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in about a minute, according to an Opteev news release. The technology company just submitted ViraWarn to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Pre-Emergency Use Authorization (Pre-EUA).
“Breath is one of the most appealing non-invasive sample types for diagnosis of infectious and non-infectious disease,” said Opteev in its FDA Pre-EUA application. “Exhaled breath is very easy to provide and is less prone to user errors. Breath contains a number of biomarkers associated with different ailments that include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), viruses, bacteria, antigens, and nucleic acid.”
Further clinical trials and the FDA Pre-EUA are needed before ViraWarn can be made available to consumers. In the meantime, Opteev announced that the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) had named ViraWarn as a 2023 Innovation Award Honoree in the digital health category.
“ViraWarn is designed to allow users an ultra-fast and convenient way to know if they are spreading a dangerous respiratory virus. With a continued increase in COVID-19 and a new surge in RSV and influenza cases, we’re eager to bring ViraWarn to market so consumers can easily blow into a personal device and find out if they are positive or negative,” said Conrad Bessemer (above), Opteev President and Co-Founder, in a news release.
The ViraWarn breath analyzer uses a silk-based sensor that “traces the electric discharge of respiratory viruses coupled with an artificial intelligence (AI) processor to filter out any potential inaccuracies,” according to the news release.
Here is how the breath analyzer (mouthpiece, attached biosensor chamber, and attached printed circuit board chamber) is deployed by a user, according to the Opteev website:
- The user turns on the device and an LED light indicates readiness.
- The user blows twice into the mouthpiece.
- A carbon filter stops bacteria and VOCs and allows virus particles to pass through.
- As “charge carriers,” virus particles have a “cumulative charge.”
- In a biosensor chamber, virus particles create a change in “electrical resistivity.”
- Electrical data are forwarded to the AI processor.
- The AI processer delivers a result.
- Within 60 seconds, a red signal indicates a positive presence of a virus and a green signal indicates negative one.
“The interaction of the virus with a specially designed liquid semiconductive medium, or a solid polymer semiconductor, generates changes in the conductivity of the electrical biosensor, which can then be picked up by electrodes. Such electrical data can be analyzed using algorithms and make a positive or negative call,” explains an Opteev white paper on the viral screening process.
While the ViraWarn breath analyzer can identify the presence of a virus, it cannot distinguish between specific viruses, the company noted. Therefore, a clinical laboratory PCR test is needed to confirm results.
Other Breath Tests
Opteev is not the only company developing diagnostic tests using breath samples.
In “Will Blowing in a Device Be Useful in Screening for COVID-19? FDA Grants Its First EUA for a Breathalyzer SARS-CoV-2 Screening Test,” Dark Daily reported on the FDA issuing an EUA in 2022 for the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer, the first test to detect compounds in breath samples linked to SARS-CoV-2 infection, an FDA statement noted.
And in “NIST Scientists Enhance Frequency Comb Breathalyzer Enabling It to Detect Multiple Disease Biomarkers,” we covered how researchers at JILA, a research center jointly operated by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado Boulder, have developed a breath test that can detect and monitor four disease biomarkers at one time with the potential to identify six more.
For clinical laboratory managers and pathologists, Opteev’s ViraWarn is notable in breath diagnostics development because it is a personal hand-held tool. It empowers people to do self-tests and other disease screenings, all of which would need to be confirmed with medical laboratory testing in the case of positive results.
Further, it is important to understand that consumers are the primary target for this novel diagnostic device. This is consistent with investor-funding companies wanting to develop testing solutions that can be used by consumers. At the same time, a device like ViraWarn could be used by clinical laboratories in their patient service centers to provide rapid test results.
—Donna Marie Pocius