Home Health Covid, the mask with the sensor arrives against the infection

Covid, the mask with the sensor arrives against the infection

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Covid, the mask with the sensor arrives against the infection

Receiving a message on your smartphone after a risky contact had to be one of the goals of the tracking apps. Now a “smart mask” will do it, this time in real time.

The new ally against airborne infections comes from Shanghai: it was created by researchers from Tongji University, with the financial support of the National Key Research and Development Program of Chinaand promises to change the rules of “indoor” prevention thanks to a sensor that recognizes the most common respiratory viruses.

The chip attached to the mask detects traces of coronavirus in the air, as well as those of seasonal flu, and after ten minutes of close contact warn the owner of the unwelcome encounter. The mechanism developed by Chinese scientists finds the virus in just 0.3 microliters of infected aerosol, which is 70 to 560 times less than the volume of liquid produced by talking, coughing or sneezing. A result that was unimaginable two years ago.

Research from Tongji University has just been published on Cell Matter, showing all the potential of the smart mask to be produced on a large scale, to be used in particular by those who carry out biohazard professions. “As we all know, wearing a mask can reduce the risk of spreading and contracting the disease. So we wanted to create an equally effective means that could also detect the presence of viruses in the air and alert the wearer,” explains lead researcher Yin. Fang.

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“The respiratory pathogens that cause flu are spread through the small droplets and aerosols released by infected people as they talk, cough and sneeze. These virus-containing molecules can remain suspended in the air for a long time, and the small sensor detects them thanks to them. to aptamers “: artificial antibodies capable of binding to a specific biological target, in this case the Sars-Cov-2, H5N1 and H1N1 viruses in all their most common variants.

The first research on aptamers able to bind to the Spike protein of the Sars-Cov-2 virus, thus isolating the “key” that allows the virus to infect other cells, was published in the journal Chemistry Europe and is the result of an international study in Italy also participated with the Cnr Institute of Genetic and Biomedical Research of Cagliari, aimed at the search for a rapid diagnostic system.

In this case, the artificial antibodies have been placed on a gel substrate, to which a wireless chip is connected: as soon as the molecules bind to a sufficiently risky concentration of viruses, the smart mask will trigger the preset message, warning the wearer. to have had a contact at risk.

“It is in effect an early warning system to prevent outbreaks of infectious respiratory diseases – adds Fang -. Our mask works very well in any closed space with poor ventilation, such as elevators or small offices, where the risk of being infected is greater “. What if a new respiratory virus or a dangerous new variant emerges? “The sensor is easily upgradeable.”

The mask is essential for capturing viruses because it is in effect a filter mechanically operated by our breath: “Gas exchange in the human body occurs through exhalation and inhalation, with an average expiratory volume of about 0.5 liters and a respiration rate of 12 times per minute. Then human respiration is used to have the right pumping power to collect the viruses on a gel, where it will be analyzed in real time. Then, every 10 minutes the chip checks the samples and if it detects a dangerous quantity, it sends the alert “, specify the authors.

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To date, the mask is still considered essential to reduce the risk of infection, second only to the vaccine. And wearable electronics show great potential in terms of health and prevention. “Direct detection of viruses from the air may be the most attractive approach for early diagnosis of major infectious diseases. Current clinical diagnosis methods, such as PCR, the Elisa enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and isothermal acid amplification technologies nuclei concentrate mainly on analyzing the collected samples. But none of them can predict the presence of the virus in the surrounding air. Therefore it is evident that new detection technologies – real-time, fast and portable – would help slow the spread of the virus. respiratory diseases and to alleviate the bottleneck of tracking, which inevitably has to undergo the times of laboratory tests “, conclude the Chinese scientists.

It goes without saying that the same researchers are already working on a wide range of smart devices capable of detecting all the pathogens around us. “Thanks to wearable devices, the diagnosis and treatment of diseases can become more precise and faster”, which is what every doctor hopes, even in non-pandemic times.

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