Hospital trials fast and cheap coronavirus AI breath test

The device uses a cloud-based diagnostic algorithm and could return a result within two minutes.

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File picture of coronavirus breath analyser / Credit: Deep Sensing Algorithms Oy

Laakso Health Centre in Helsinki is trialing a new brethalyser test to see if it gives a reliable coronavirus diagnosis.

The results are available in just two minutes and at a cost of €2 it would be the fastest and cheapest Covid-19 test in the world.

The new test is a cooperation between Tampere-based company Deep Sensing Algorithms Oy and the City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki as well as the social and health industry.

“We are collaborating with companies to solve the corona crisis and helping companies use the city as a platform for development. We utilize artificial intelligence and digitalisation, as is the case in the world’s most functional city” says Mika Malin, CEO of Forum Virium Helsinki in a statement.

So how does the new test work?

The test is very simple and works like a standard alcohol brethalyser: a patient blows into the machine over a 30 second period, with 2-4 breaths during this time. The sensors inside detect organic compounds from the breath.

The device then connects with an artificial intelligence algorithm in the cloud, which sends back information based on the biomarkers in the sample.

Everyone who takes part in the testing programme will also have a traditional throat swab test for coronavirus, and participation in the breath testing is voluntary.

Testing on the new device is being carried out in Helsinki and in Kazakhstan, with studies expanding later to the USA and Netherlands, and Deep Sensing Algorithm’s CEO says with coronavirus cases still growing in some parts of the world a cheap, reliable test could be invaluable in the fight against the pandemic.

“Let’s think about testing the entire Finnish population in ten days. The costs of testing would be negligible compared to large-scale containment measures” says Pekka Rissanen.

The breath analyser device itself it being manufactured now, and should be available during August for the expanded testing programme.