Breath test for Covid-19: how it’s done, effectiveness and other details
The Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorization for what it says is the first device capable of detecting COVID-19 in breath samples.
The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer uses a technique called gas chromatography-gas-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to separate and identify chemical mixtures and quickly detect five volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with infection with the SARS-CoV-2 in exhaled air.
The performance of the InspectIR COVID-19 breathalyzer has been validated in a large study involving 2,409 people, including those with and without symptoms. In the study, the test was shown to have a sensitivity of 91.2% (the percentage of positive samples correctly identified by the test) and a specificity of 99.3% (the percentage of negative samples correctly identified by testing). The study also showed that, in a population with only 4.2% of individuals positive for the virus, the test had a negative predictive value of 99.6%, meaning that people who receive a test result negative are probably truly negative in areas with low disease prevalence.
The test can be performed in settings where the patient sample is both collected and analyzed, such as doctor’s offices, hospitals and mobile testing sites, using an instrument the size of a handbag. The test is performed by a qualified and trained operator under the supervision of a health care provider licensed or authorized by state law to order tests and can provide results in less than three minutes.