Researchers are adjusting the sensors they started developing in 2014 to detect the Ebola virus to fight the coronavirus pandemic, MIT researcher Jim Collins told Business Insider.
MIT and Harvard researchers published his research on the mask in 2016, after adapting the technology to fight the Zika virus.
The mask the researchers are developing produces a fluorescent signal when a person with coronavirus breathes, coughs, or sneezes, according to Business Insider.
The project is in its “very early stages” but the results are promising, Collins told the media. They hope to demonstrate that the concept works in the coming weeks, reports Business Insider.
“Once we reach this stage, it would be a question [of] setting up trials with potentially infected individuals to see if it would work in a real environment, “said Collins.
The research team is testing the sensor’s ability to detect the virus with a small sample of saliva. Researchers are also experimenting with placing sensors inside a mask as well as developing a module that can be attached to other over-the-counter masks.
According to Business Insider, the researcher’s virus identification technology has proven to be effective on other viruses, including SARS, measles, influenza, hepatitis C and West Nile.
Collins said that in addition to paper, the technology has been proven to work on plastic, quartz and fabric.
Sensors are made up of genetic material that binds to a virus. According to Business Insider, for sensors to be activated, they need humidity and must detect the genetic sequence of a virus.
Collins said the mask could potentially be used to diagnose coronavirus patients, as well as for screening in mass transit areas as restrictions on coronaviruses are lifted.
“As we open up our transit system, you might imagine it being used at airports as we go through security, waiting to board a plane,” Collins told Business Insider. “You or I could use it on the way to work. Hospitals could use it for patients on arrival or wait in the waiting room as a pre-test for infected people. “
The laboratory’s goal is to start manufacturing the mask for public distribution by the end of the summer, Collins told the store.