Collin Arocho
26 October 2020

Imec announced it has started developing a new SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) test. While current test methods us blood, saliva or nasopharyngeal swabs, the new test system will capture particles from a person’s exhaled breath to determine if the pathogen is present and the person is contagious. According to the Leuven research institute, the solution promises to accurately identify the presence of coronavirus in less than five minutes – making for faster, easier, more comfortable and larger-scale testing.

Imec corona

Imec’s solution consists of a sample collector and an analysis unit, both of which are being custom developed by its researchers. Investigators are focusing much of their attention on the sample collector, which will act as the aerosol (and virus particle) collector and support the solution’s high-speed real-time quantitative (RT-q) PCR functionality. For clinical validation of the testing solution, Imec will be teaming up with UZ Leuven University Hospital for trials, with a test of a functional prototype expected at the Brussels airport by the end of summer 2021.

“It’s now clear that the virus is transmitted pre-symptomatically via exhaled particles,” says Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “SARS-CoV-2 testing via breath sample coupled with an ultrafast molecular analysis would be game-changing since it would allow for the timely detection of individuals who are most likely to transmit the virus. Because a breath sample is much less invasive compared to swabs or saliva, it would also allow for more frequent testing and a faster return to normal.”