Chinese researchers working with Tongji University in Shanghai have developed a mask that lets users know if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or the flu. A sensor built into a mask is able to detect the COVID-19, H5N1 and H1N1 influenza viruses in the air within 10 minutes and send notifications to a device. The sensor attached to the mask detected as little as 0.3 microlitres of liquid containing the virus, about 70 to 560 times less than the volume of liquid produced in one sneeze.The biosensor is mounted outside the mask with a rechargeable lithium battery. It should be best used in enclosed spaces where the risk of infection is high. The bioelectronic mask could be adapted to detect emerging viruses, and prevent future outbreaks, because the sensor uses synthetic molecules that can be designed to target specific pathogens.
To be efficient, “people have to wear them, they have to know what they need to do if they are exposed to do it — because knowing that you’ve breathed it in is only the first step”, University of Technology Sydney infection control expert Marilyn Cruickshank declared.Similar technology was used by researchers at a Harvard laboratory in the US, where biosensors were embedded in N95 masks to create an in-built COVID test. Mask use remains widespread in countries including China, which retains a strict Covid Zero policy, while many people around the world continue to wear them to protect themselves and others from the virus regardless of government rules.