Singapore gives provisional nod to one-minute COVID breathalyser test

Breathonix was founded by three NUS graduates -- Dr Jia Zhunan, Du Fang and Wayne Wee -- along with India-born Professor T Venky Venkatesan.

Published: 24th May 2021 02:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th May 2021 02:09 PM   |  A+A-

A health care worker holds a collected sample of Covid-19 test, inside a mobile testing van, amid the surge in coronavirus cases in Amritsar,

Representational Image. (Photo | PTI)


SINGAPORE: Singapore authorities on Monday provisionally approved a breath test developed by three graduates of the prestigious National University of Singapore (NUS) and a India-born Professor that can detect the highly-contagious COVID-19 infection within a minute.

Developed by Breathonix, a spin-off company of the NUS, the BreFence Go COVID-19 test is the first breath analysis system to secure such authorisation in Singapore, the Channel News Asia reported.

Breathonix is now working with the health ministry to run a deployment trial of their technology at one of the land checkpoints where incoming travellers will undergo screening with the BreFence Go COVID-19 breath test system, the company said in a press release on Monday.

"This breath analysis will be carried out alongside the current compulsory COVID-19 antigen rapid test (ART)," it said.

Breathonix was founded by three NUS graduates -- Dr Jia Zhunan, Du Fang and Wayne Wee -- along with India-born Professor T Venky Venkatesan.

It is supported by the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme, a scheme that encourages talented NUS graduate students and research staff to establish and run high potential start-ups based on deep technologies.

ART produces results in around 30 minutes and can be done on site.

Meanwhile, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, considered to be the gold standard for testing, take a few hours.

Swabs for PCR tests also have to be transported to labs.

According to the company website, for the BreFence Go Covid-19 Breath Test System, a person only needs to exhale into a disposable one-way valved mouthpiece connected to a high-precision breath sampler.

The exhaled breath is collected and fed into a mass spectrometer for measurement.

The spectrometer then analyses the invisible particles called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in a person's exhaled breath and generates the result in less than one minute.

Any individual with a positive breathalyser result will need to undergo a confirmatory PCR swab test.

Singapore has so far reported 61,824 coronavirus cases and 32 deaths due to the disease.

Dr Jia, chief executive of Breathonix, said: "Our breath test is non-invasive. Users only need to breathe out normally into the disposable mouthpiece provided, so there will not be any discomfort."

"Cross-contamination is unlikely as the disposable mouthpiece has a one-way valve and a saliva trap to prevent inhalation or saliva from entering the machine," she added.

The breath analysis system underwent clinical trials at three locations conducted from June 2020 to April this year.

While two trials were carried out at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and Changi Airport, the third was carried out in Dubai, in collaboration with the Dubai Health Authority and the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, the release said.


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