A new breath test quickly identifies people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.


Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a breath test that quickly identifies those infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The device requires only one or two breaths and provides results in less than a minute. Research through clinical studies measuring active strains in the St. Louis area also found that the breath test successfully detected several different strains of SARS-CoV-2, including the original strain and the Omicron variant. Clinical studies are continuing, with plans to use the device in clinics beyond Washington University’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit.

The new study, available online in the journal ACS Sensors, is about a breath test that could be used in doctors’ offices to diagnose people infected with the virus quickly. The same group of researchers recently published a paper in the journal Nature Communications about an air monitor they had built to detect airborne COVID-19 within about five minutes in hospitals, schools, and other public places.

The breath test has the potential to help prevent outbreaks in situations where many people interact in close quarters, with researchers citing examples of aboard ships, in nursing homes, in residence halls at colleges and universities, or on military bases. If and when new strains of COVID-19 or other airborne pathogenic diseases arise, such devices also could be used to screen people at public events.

The New York-based company, Y2X Life Sciences, has an exclusive option to license the technology.  The company consulted with the research team from the beginning of the project and during the device’s design stages to facilitate the possible commercialization of the test in the future.