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Helsinki to trial coronavirus breathalyser

If reliable, the breakthrough device will provide a diagnosis in two minutes and is likely to cost about two euros.

Uloshengitystä mittaava laite.
The project consortium has high hopes for the novel breathalyser. Image: Deep Sensing Algorithms
Yle News

Medical professionals at Helsinki’s Laakso health centre are to begin a trial to identify novel coronavirus infections using a type of breathalyser that examines the air exhaled by patients.

The novel breathalyser test is part of a research project involving Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium, city social and health care professionals, and software firm Deep Sensing Algorithms.

Helsinki’s Forum Virium claimed in a statement on Monday that the breath test would be the world’s cheapest and fastest Covid-19 test and would provide a result in two minutes at a cost of two euros.

Testing of the device will begin with control groups in Helsinki and Kazakhstan and will later expand to the Netherlands and the United States.

In the Helsinki trial, Deep Sensing algorithms will determine whether or not the device is able to provide a reliable coronavirus diagnosis. The project team has just begun manufacturing of the device and the first units will be ready for delivery in August.

AI to identify virus

The breathalyser will rely on artificial intelligence to provide a Covid-19 diagnosis. Customers will blow into the device, where nanosensors will detect and measure short-lived organic compounds.

"We are engaged in innovative cooperation with corporations to solve the coronavirus crisis and we will help firms to use the city as a development platform. We are utilising artificial intelligence and digitalisation," Forum Virium CEO Mikka Malin said in the statement.

According to Deep Sensing Algorithms the same devices can be used to detect other diseases from the air patients exhale. The firm cited lung and bowel cancers as possible diseases that can be screened using the same technology.

The technology was developed as part of a Co-created and Wellbeing project funded by the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, a joint regional authority for the Helsinki-Uusimaa region. The project also includes the Tampere University Hospital, Oulu University and Laurea University of Applied Sciences as well as the cities of Tampere, Vantaa and Oulu.

Daily Helsingin Sanomat was the first in Finland to report on the type of breathalyser test.

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