Sticker puts simple COVID-19 test on masks

UC San Diego receives $1.3 million for development
Posted at 6:09 AM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 10:17:18-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Researchers at UC San Diego's School of Engineering have created a way to test for COVID-19 risk that is so simple, it can be worn as a sticker on your mask.

"This could have a really profound impact on the trajectory of the pandemic," says Jesse Jokerst, an Associate Professor at UC San Diego.

The test uses a technique called "Colorimetric Detection," similar to home-pregnancy test indicators.

The National Institutes of Health just gave UC San Diego $1.3 million to develop it and assess its accuracy to enhance surveillance of the disease around the world.

"Detection is yes you're positive for a disease or no you're negative for a disease," Jokerst explains. "In surveillance, we're looking at elevated risk within a group."

The test looks for the presence of a specific COVID-19 protease in people's breath. As someone wears the sticker on the mask throughout the day, it collects droplets.

"At the end of the day, you click a little blister pack, and if it changes color, that means that you might have been exposed to COVID and that you should seek out some additional testing," says Jokerst.

He says it's similar to a smoke alarm. It won't tell you exactly what's going on but is a fair warning that you need to take further action for safety.

"That's what we were trying to develop. It's a device that could say, 'Hey, today there's an elevated risk, and everybody should seek some additional testing,'" says Jokerst.

This kind of color-based test has never been used for viral detection.

Jokerst says that once the pandemic ends, these tests could still assess the risk of diseases like SARS and MERS.