The Sunday Times reported on the very accurate device which is slightly larger than a smoke detector.
It is now being hailed as a potential boon for screening in airplane cabins, classrooms, nursing homes and offices.
Early studies by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Durham showed the device to have 98-100% accuracy.
If correct, it could be as reliable as benchmark PCR lab Covid-19 tests and much more than rapid lateral flow tests.
But the researchers stressed that their findings are still in their infancy with their work published in an article that has yet to be peer reviewed.
The sensor, made by the Roboscientific company of Cambridgeshire, works by detecting chemicals produced by the skin or present in the breath of people infected with the coronavirus.
These “volatile organic compounds” create an odor that is too subtle to be sniffed by the human nose.
A study by the Covid alarm research team has shown that they can be detected by dogs, but the alarm is said to be more accurate and convenient.
The Sunday Times said the detectors could find people with the virus even if they were not yet showing symptoms, making it more effective than PCR tests, which have been shown to be inadequate for asymptomatic carriers.
It takes machines 15 to 30 minutes to sample the air in a large room, with the results sent instantly to a cell phone or computer.
At present, the sensors would cost around £ 5,000 each, according to the newspaper.
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