'COVID-19 Breathalyzer' Detects Disease in Seconds

A Dallas-based company is part of a collaboration aimed at bringing a COVID-19 breathalyzer to the public

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Testing for COVID-19 has come so far since the start of the pandemic.

Soon, a device being developed by a North Texas company could change the way we test altogether.

You don't have to get a COVID-19 test to know they're not pleasant.

But what if detecting the virus was as simple as breathing?

“It's a welcome change when people have to blow into a machine rather than have a swab stuck up their nose,” said Dave Copps, CEO of Worlds Inc., an artificial intelligence company based in Dallas.

Copps and co-founder Chris Rohde are helping develop a state-of-the-art device called Worlds Protect.

“You simply breath into Protect and receive results in about 15 seconds, in less than a minute,” Copps said.

A collaboration with Texas A&M University and the U.S. Air Force, the device looks like a kiosk.

It works when someone uses a disposable straw to blow into the machine. Test results are sent to their phone in seconds.

“What makes Protect unique is that it doesn't directly detect the virus but rather the body's unique chemical reaction to the virus,” Copps said.

For now, the device isn't used to diagnose someone with COVID-19. Think of it as a screening system to tell you if you should get tested.

“That's really the big missing in our country,” Copps said.

Right now, Worlds Protect is being tested for accuracy at hospitals and universities nationwide.

A prototype at Texas A&M is a first for Texas.

But hundreds of people have been tested by it at BYU and an air force base in Ohio.

How to Avoid COVID-19 Infection:

The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to this virus, which are similar to the precautions you take to avoid the flu. CDC always recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

*Information shared from the Office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

The results, they say, suggest the accuracy is comparable to PCR tests, the gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19.

“For us, we're doing this because we want to help. We think we have the people and the technology to do that. So we're running as fast as we can with great partners to see if we can get there,” Copps said.

If the device is successful, Copps and Rohde said it could be used to detect all types of illnesses.

Prototypes will arrive soon at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio to be tried out on airmen reporting for basic training.

The hope is to have the device ready for public use next year.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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