Researchers developing face mask sticker that can detect COVID-19 in droplets

SAN DIEGO, California (KTRK) -- Researchers at UC San Diego's School of Engineering are working on a potential game changer in the fight against COVID-19. Researchers are looking into a new type of test that could detect the virus on your face mask.

The test can be worn as a sticker on your mask. The sticker includes a little dye and works just like an at-home pregnancy test.

As someone wears the sticker on the mask throughout the day, it collects droplets. After a few hours, it can detect COVID-19 molecules from your breath.

At the end of the day, you can puncture the dye pack, and if the sticker changes color, that means you might have been exposed to the virus.

The test uses a technique called "colorimetric detection" to change colors, depending on the results. The best part, it's as easy to use as an at-home pregnancy test.

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The turnaround time for the test is 24 to 72 hours once received at the Los Angeles lab.



"At the end of the day, you click a little blister pack and if it changes color, that means that you might have been exposed," UC San Diego Associate Professor of Engineering, Jesse Jokerst said. "To be able to have a simple color change indicate risk, I think could have a really profound impact on the trajectory of the pandemic."

Jokerst emphasized that the test is similar to a smoke alarm. It won't tell you exactly what is going on, but it does serve as a fair warning that you should take further action for safety.

Researchers in San Diego just received $1.3 million to test the stickers for accuracy from the National Institutes of Health.

Jokerst says it only costs a few cents per test to make, and the sticker can go on any kind of mask. He said even after the pandemic ends, the tests could be used to assess the risk of diseases like SARS and MERS.

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