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Special Feature

Tests that take your breath away

  • from Shaastra :: vol 01 issue 02 :: Mar - Apr 2022
The DSA BreathPass analyser captures disease-led changes in the breath before symptoms appear.

A world striving for normalcy amid a pandemic turns into an early proving ground for exhaled breath testing.

For Pekka Rissanen, the year began on a high note. On January 14, Finland's Deep Sensing Algorithms (DSA), of which he is the CEO, announced that it was ready to sell its handheld exhaled breath testing device for COVID-19 in Europe. Rissanen sees the device - the DSA BreathPass analyser - as an early warning tool since it captures disease-led changes in the breath before symptoms appear.

"Our big focus is asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people," he says.

Singapore's Breathonix, too, is certified to sell its BreFence Go breath test for COVID-19 in the European Union, says Jia Zhunan, CEO. BreFence Go is provisionally authorised for sale in Singapore and has the Ministry of Health's approval in Malaysia. Breathonix is also in talks with a few partners for India.

"Typical use cases include airports, checkpoints, large events, ports of entry, and headquarters of a large company," Jia says.

At the Ohio State University, Perena Gouma, Edward Orton, Jr., Chair in Ceramic Engineering, has, at long last, heard from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on an emergency use authorization (EUA) application for a handheld COVID-19 breathalyser. The EUA was sought in September 2020, but "the FDA came back to us last week seeking more information as they scrutinise breath testing," Gouma told Shaastra in late January.

When Shaastra reported on the potential of exhaled breath testing for killer diseases (Just Breathe Out, and To the Point), we looked at a decadal horizon for it to come into its own. But we also noted that the pandemic could provide it with an early proving ground - since companies working on exhaled breath testing for cancers had smartly pivoted to COVID-19. As the world begins 2022 trying to regain a semblance of normalcy amid fresh outbreaks and new variants of SARS-CoV-2, exhaled breath testing is being tapped for rapid mass screening.

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