Infection prevention through smear-free on-site testing for SARS-CoV-2

Model of a breathing mask with integrated sensor
© Fraunhofer IZI-BB
Model of a breathing mask with integrated sensor

The project aims to provide a procedure as quickly as possible that allows simple on-site testing for a possible infection.

For precise interventions, the identification of a viral infection should be done at a very early stage, preferably by persons without symptoms. This is crucial for the management of patients and infected nursing and clinical staff.

For a test for SARS-CoV-2, smear samples are taken by a swab of the nasal/pharyngeal mucosa. A correctly performed, deep smear can be unpleasant to painful. Sources of error here are incorrect sample collection and the wrong time for the smear, as the throat is often only slightly affected in later phases of the disease. The actual examination of the sample material is currently carried out in central laboratories and provides the results the next day at best.

The goal of the project is an apparatus-free respiratory gas analysis for preventive monitoring of the health status, especially for persons in systemically relevant professions. For self-protection reasons, medical professionals are obliged to wear a mask. It is therefore logical to integrate the sensor into the face mask. For this purpose, the mask is equipped with a flexible test matrix, which is a tool for both sample collection and analysis. The advantage of a sensory breath analysis for virus detection is that sampling is non-invasive, unlimited in terms of volume, does not require clinical personnel and does not represent a significant burden for the test person. The test result would be immediately visible, even if the actual symptoms of an infection are not yet noticeable. For a comprehensive monitoring in case of a second corona wave, there would be no higher psychological and physical stress for medical personnel in particular due to constant smear tests.


This project is funded by the internal programs of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.