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Melbourne company developing COVID-19 'breath test' which returns results in just three minutes

ASSA | 2021-03-12 07:00:00

Testing is a crucial part of Australia's coronavirus surveillance strategy, but many people find having a swab pushed up their nostrils uncomfortable.
Now Melbourne company GreyScan is developing a much less invasive test which returns results in just three minutes.
GreyScan CEO Samantha Ollerton has likened it to a roadside breath test.
"It works by asking somebody to breathe into a device which collects a sample, that takes about a minute,"

"The sample is then put into our detector device which illuminates a red screen or a green screen, depending on whether the virus is present or not.
"By having a non-intrusive test, you can actually have a very comfortable experience."
Current PCR swabs detect "any" level of virus in the body and can result in false postives if someone is "viral shedding" at the end of their infectious period.
However, the GreyScan test will be able to tell just how infectious someone is.
Ms Ollerton said measuring "infectivity" is crucial in understanding exactly who is at risk of passing the virus on.
"We are looking at the external proteins on the virus as well as the nucleaic material," she said.
"That combination means we can tell the difference between a fragment of the virus ... a live virus ... or a dead virus."

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The test would help rapid screening of people in transit, such as in airports or at interstate road borders.
"We really we can't afford to wait 24 hours [for test results]," Ms Ollerton said.
"If we really want to let people go about their business ... open up the borders for international travel we need to have something fast accurate and trustworthy."
GreyScan's breath test technology is still in development phase, but with funding support manufacturing could start soon.
Another homegrown COVID screening mode is also showing promise.
University of Adelaide and Australian Border Force are training dogs to sniff out people who are COVID-positive.

Dr Anne-Lise Chaber says the University's School of Animal and Veterinary Science team, along with the ABF have already trained 14 dogs to discriminate between sweat samples of people who have COVID, and those people who do not have COVID.
"The dog is extremely quick and we don't need a lot of sweat to be able to tell you if someone is positive or negative," Dr Chaber told
"So for instance, someone arriving at an airport could be told to 'please put this swab under your armpit for one minute' ... then we give this swab to the dog.
"If the dog sits in front of the swab that means that person is positive.
"So it's a very quick and reliable way of screening people."
Dr Chaber said detector dogs could be used to screen large gatherings of people.

"It could be any social gathering, such as airports, people watching tennis matches, dogs could be deployed to school or universities."