Swabs may soon be skipped, as countries around the world test out faster, easier and novel ways of detecting Covid-19.
Singapore's Changi Airport Group last month announced last month that the trial of Covid-19 breathalysers at the T1 Changi Testing Facility, a method which could be a game changer for reopening travel as these gadgets can deliver results quicker and at a cheaper price.
Since then, Singapore's Health Sciences Authority has given the provisional green light for the locally developed BreFence Go Covid-19 breath test system, which touts to deliver results in under one minute.
Breathonix, a spin-off company from the National University of Singapore, is now working with the health ministry to run a deployment trial of the BreFence Go Covid-19 technology for incoming travellers at one of Singapore's land checkpoints with Malaysia.
Tapping cancer detection technology to rapidly screen for the coronavirus, the BreFence Go Covid-19 system is a non-invasive test that only requires users to breathe out normally into a disposable mouthpiece provided.
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, according to Breathonix.
Individuals who test positive will still need to go through a mandatory PCR Covid-19 swab test.
Bees and canines roped in to Covid-19 detection work too. Photo Credit: Wageningen University & Research, Chulalongkorn University
And because the coronavirus causes metabolic changes in the body that emits a smell, experts are exploring using canines and bees for detection.
In Thailand, Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science has trained six dogs to sniff out the virus, a method which has reportedly delivered results of up to 95% accuracy since testing more than 1,000 sample — even for those who are asymptomatic.
Sweat samples are taken from armpits and smelly socks of possible Covid-19 patients, then placed in cans for dogs to sniff. Once a case is detected, the canine is trained to site down immediately in front of those cans.
And elsewhere in the Netherlands, Wageningen University & Research and tech start-up InsectSense are exploring using trained bees to extend their tongues when they smell the coronavirus.
"Bees can detect volatiles with a sensitivity of parts per trillion. For example, they find a flower a few kilometres away. Bees, like dogs, can learn to detect volatiles and odors, but with just a few minutes of training," a statement from Wageningen University read.
"This technology, BeeSense, can be a very effective diagnostic system for low-income countries that face challenges in accessing infrastructure and high-tech technologies."