Picture used for illustrative purpose only.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
From the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to sniffing K-9 dogs, determining if one were infected with the quick-mutating virulent SARS-CoV2 may soon become much easier and faster as an ongoing study on a breath analyser technology, originally for cancer detection, is now being conducted in Dubai.
The collaborative study among the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in Dubai Healthcare City, and the National University of Singapore-Breathonix Pte Ltd. (Breathonix) was announced on Saturday.
It comes after the UAE Ministry of Interior on Mar.10 released a video whereby well-trained K-9 dogs sniff on the armpit swabs of individuals for the positive or negative COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus), and the method to be implemented in approved public events or gatherings.
COVID-19 Command & Control Centre (Dubai) head/Study Lead investigator/MBRU Family Medicine assistant professor Dr. Hanan Al Suwaidi said: “We are keen to further strengthen research in the field of tech-transfer as technology has the potential to radically improve healthcare processes, healthcare management, and most importantly patient outcomes.”
DHA-Pathology and Genetics Department director Dr. Hussain Al Samt said: “In line with the vision of the leadership of the UAE, DHA is keen to foster medical research and innovation. We have collaborated with national and international institutes in the field of research and innovation particularly for COVID-19 to implement pathbreaking technologies which can drastically improve diagnostics and care for COVID-19 patients.”
Samt dubbed the breath analyser technology as a “game-changer” because the innovation allows the testing and the release of its findings to take within 60 seconds.
Gulf Today had seen in news coverages and have been receiving feedback since 2020 how PCR test takers squirm and jolt in discomfort and pain. An additional anxiety was the minimum of one day of knowing whether one is positive or negative of the virus.
The ongoing study of the breath analyser technology involving 2,500 clients or patients is being completed at the Nadd Al Hamar Primary Health Care Centre of the DHA.
The breath analyser technology was developed by Dr. Jia Zhunan and Du Fang, graduates of the NUS, the national research university of Singapore. They co-founded Breathonix as an NUS-Graduate Research Innovation Programme technology start-up with Wayne Wee. The technology was originally meant for cancer detection but Zhunan and Fang were able to adapt it for the necessary COVID-19 mass screenings, said NUS-Innovation and Enterprise deputy president Prof. Freddy Boey on Saturday.
Zhunan was interviewed by Singapore’s Straits Times and the Mobilnewsportal in Oct. 2020 about the breath analyser technology and an ongoing trial at that time, which, according to the DHA press release on Saturday, had revealed a 93 per cent (167) success rate among 180 participants.
In her Straits Times interview, Zhunan said the breath analyser is easily completed without a highly-trained laboratory staff because the user/client/patient need only to blow into a disposable mouthpiece connected to a high-precision breath sampler. Components of the collected breath are going to be examined by a “cutting-edge mass spectrometer: “Results are generated in real time, making it an attractive solution for mass screening, especially in areas with high human traffic.”
With the Mobilnewsportal, Zhunan explained what volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are. She claimed VOCs are present in a person’s exhaled breath: “VOCs are consistently produced by various biochemical reactions in human cells. Different diseases cause specific changes in a person’s breath profile. As such, VOCs can be measured as a marker for diseases like COVID-19.”
There have been companies in other countries such as Israel and US which have invented breath analyser diagnostic kits since the current global health crisis erupted in 2020.
On Saturday, Nadd Al Hamar Primary Healthcare Centre director Dr. Nada Al Mulla said: “If approved and implemented, this technology will significantly reduce the burden on laboratory processing. It will drastically get the results in comparison to the presently available testing methods such as the PCR.”
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention announced on Saturday that it conducted 88,803 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, using state-of-the-art medical testing equipment.
The latest phase of these repatriation flights, known as the "Vande Bharat Mission," began on March 1 and will last till March 28. Slightly more than 1,350 international flights are scheduled to be operated from 28 countries in this phase, enabling an estimated 260,000 Indians to travel home.
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevntion also noted that an additional 2,026 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 389,304.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack and repeated the UN's "commitment to support the Government and people of Afghanistan in their efforts to achieve peace and stability".
Authorities race to contain an emerging outbreak of the Delta strain as millions of residents in the city and several other areas will be placed under stay-at-home orders from Saturday afternoon for three days
US and European sources familiar with intelligence reporting said on Friday that Iran is the leading suspect in an attack on an Israeli-managed petroleum products tanker off Oman but it is too early to say for sure.