A bomb detector used by the United States Air Force can be modified to identify severe symptoms of covid-19 early, making it easier to treat disease caused by the new coronavirus and helping to save lives.
The project, led by scientists from the US Air Force Research Laboratory in partnership with the University of Michigan and researchers from the Advanced Intelligence Research Project Activity (Iarpa), consists of converting the explosive detector and chemical weapons in a device capable of analyzing the air exhaled by people.
The new version of the device, based on the gas chromatograph of the MAEGLIN program from Iarpa, works as a kind of breathalyzer. It has the ability to detect the chemical signature of severe acute respiratory syndrome in its initial stage, enabling easy and quick identification of patients who require greater attention.
This type of respiratory complication is associated with many deaths from covid-19, so early detection can help determine which patients will need respirators and other care before the coronavirus causes further damage to the lungs.
Tests in progress
Four prototypes of the modified device were developed in less than 1 week and are already being tested by researchers at the University of Michigan in non-military intensive care units (ICUs) with Sars-CoV-2 infected patients and healthy adults in a control group . The first results should be released soon, with the help of machine learning algorithms for a more accurate analysis.
A similar device had already been developed by the National Institutes of Health and tested on patients with respiratory complications unrelated to the coronavirus, but it did not achieve the same analytical capacity as MAEGLIN, which has left scientists more hopeful about good results now.