Masks capable of detecting COVID? New face cover shines amid traces of viruses

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(NEXSTAR) – A team of researchers at a Japanese university has created a mask using ostrich cells that glow when it detects traces of the coronavirus.

Scientists at Kyoto Prefectural University, led by school president Yasuhiro Tsukamoto, hope the masks – which have not yet been approved for sale – will provide an effective and inexpensive testing option, according to the Japan Times.

The team decided to coat a special filter in the mask with ostrich antibodies that target the novel coronavirus based on previous research showing birds’ strong ability to neutralize the virus.

“We have produced ostrich antibodies against many viruses, bacteria and allergens, but we were delighted to see how quickly the ostriches developed immunity and placed the anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in their eggs.” Tsukamoto said in a March 2020 press release on the initial discovery of the antibodies. “We were even happier to see how well the antibodies were able to block the virus that causes COVID-19. “

The masks were tested in a small study in which participants wore them for eight hours, according to Reuters.

Scientists then sprayed the filters with a special antibody-based dye against the ostrich coronavirus that will glow under ultraviolet light if the virus is present, according to the Kyodo News Agency. Masks worn by test subjects who had COVID-19 glowed in areas closest to the nose and mouth. The brightness of the glow diminished as the test subjects recovered and their viral load decreased.

“We can mass produce antibodies from ostriches at low cost,” Tsukamoto told the agency. “In the future, I want to make this an easy test kit that anyone can use.”

Tsukamoto said he himself discovered he contracted the virus after wearing one of the experimental masks, which he confirmed with a COVID-19 test.

He said his team is planning a larger study – 150 participants instead of 32 – and hopes the government will approve the product for the market by next year.

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