How Singapore-made Covid-19 breathalyser works

The TracieX breathalyser by Singapore medtech firm Silver Factory Technology. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
The TracieX breathalyser by Singapore medtech firm Silver Factory Technology is currently being trialled. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
The breathalyser is sanitised with alcohol wipes after the user has blown into it. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Silver Factory co-founders (from left) Phang-Quang Gia Chuong, Ling Xing Yi and Phang In Yee. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - The TracieX breathalyser by Singapore medtech firm Silver Factory Technology, which is currently being trialled, uses a sensor chip to identify the molecular fingerprint of volatile organic compounds present in the exhaled breath of Covid-19 patients.

A disposable breath collection chamber with infection control features securely traps any contagious material within the chamber, thus preventing direct exposure of these materials to others, such as healthcare workers.

Current studies

Unblinded studies - where participants have prior knowledge of their Covid-19 status - are ongoing at Changi Airport's Terminal 1 and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).

Participants who volunteer to be part of the study will take two tests: the breathalyser and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The PCR test result is known before the breathalyser test is taken. The test results are then compared.

Participants first breathe into the breathalyser for around 10 seconds before the device is inserted into a portable reader to obtain a read-out. The whole process takes less than two minutes.

Future studies

In the next stage of trials, blinded studies will be conducted in Changi Airport, NCID and several hospitals in Malaysia.

In blinded studies, those analysing the breathalyser readouts are unaware of the participant's Covid-19 PCR results. This removes the possibility of bias.

Dr Shawn Vasoo, head of the Infectious Disease Research Laboratory and clinical director in NCID, said: "This is an important part of diagnostic trials to make sure that the tests are performing as intended. Participants of the blinded study include NCID patients and travellers on selected flights at Changi Airport."

The future

Silver Factory is currently working with Enterprise Singapore to bring this technology beyond Singapore's shores.

Security firm Certis, one of Silver Factory's partners, will deploy these breathalysers in its Covid-19 testing operations once they have received their necessary approvals.

Certis also plans to deploy blockchain technology to encrypt test results for confidentiality, Mr Joseph Tan, senior managing director and head of technology services at Certis, told The Straits Times.

Scanning of the breathalyser's barcode. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Beyond Covid-19, Silver Factory is also working with Temasek Life Sciences Accelerator (TLA) to apply this technology to other areas. One such example will be to use volatile organic compounds as accurate biomarkers to get a better understanding of infection in humans and other organisms in areas such as healthcare and agriculture.

TLA will also be investing in Silver Factory, together with partners and venture capitalists, for an undisclosed sum, said Mr Peter Chia, chief executive officer at TLA and Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory.

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