A new type of nanofiber swab could improve sample collection and test sensitivity for SARS-CoV-2 and other biological specimens; ruler at left shows centimeters. (Credit: Adapted from Nano Letters 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.0c04956)

Researchers are developing a breath-sampling whistle that could make COVID-19 screening easy to do at home. The technology incorporates a unique hydrogel material to capture aerosols from exhaled breath and preserve the samples, which could either be sent to a lab for analysis or, for a fully at-home approach, transferred to an accompanying test kit that could detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center are collaborating on development. The user-friendly testing format is suitable for a broad range of users, including children and the elderly. The prototype was 3D printed at ORNL’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences and designed for low-cost mass production.

The developer’s aim is to put actionable information in the hands of users to help them make timely decisions, such as whether to go to work or school, quarantine, or seek medical care.