Almost from the start, medical experts have been trying to come up with ways to enhance the safety and effectiveness of virus masks. To say nothing of the new trend to double up on two different types. Researchers at the University of California San Diego think they may have the trick. They’ve been working on sticky test strips that can be placed on the outside of masks. They’re designed to be able to detect SARS-CoV-2 in either the breath or saliva of the user.

They may look odd. But if they work it could be a novel breakthrough. Like many test strips for a variety of medical uses, these will change color if the virus is detected.

Photo: UCSD
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The UCSD project has the support of the National Institutes of Health. NIH is helping with $1.3 million in funding to keep the project on track. Part of the idea is that the test strips would mainly be used by people who live in resource-poor areas along with being simple to use and easily implemented by most anyone who knows how to use a sticky-note. The NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Radical program dealing with COVID-19 believes the test strip idea could become a game-changer.

Jesse Jokerst is a professor of nanoengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and is the lead principal investigator of the project. “In many ways, masks are the perfect ‘wearable’ sensor for our current world. We’re taking what many people are already wearing and repurposing them, so we can quickly and easily identify new infections and protect vulnerable communities.” So far, no word from the research team when the COVID mask sticky test strips will be ready for production and use by the general public.

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