New coronavirus breathalyzer test in the works at University of Miami

Researchers at the University of Miami are working on a new COVID-19 test that they say will be quick, easy and painless. 

“This is a totally non-invasive test that you just blow three times into a little breathalyzer. It’s like a kazoo and the breath is then caught into this apparatus and in 40 seconds it can be analyzed in order to tell whether or not the SARS-CoV-2 virus is in the exhaled air,” Dr. Roy Weiss, the COVID-19 chief medical officer of the University of Miami health system, said. “It can also distinguish whether or not there are other viral particles, such as the influenza virus.” 

The university is the first college in the nation to participate in this research. It’s running trials with its patients and students, but it hopes the test will be available to the general public soon. 

“Right now, we are planning to do around 1,000 participants at the University of Miami and compare it with the gold standard testing to get a high accuracy rate. I think that would provide us with strong data to go further and see its potential approval in the near future,” said Khemraj Hirani, a Miller School of Medicine researcher at the University of Miami. 

Besides giving results much faster, the new test will also cost less. Weiss said a standard nasal swab test costs upward of $100 to process in a laboratory. The new breath test will cost about $4.


“If you can imagine before going into a football stadium, everyone is going to get tested so that you feel comfortable that all the people surrounding you are not going to infect you with the virus, or before you go on an airplane or a movie theatre. This is really an opportunity for us to affect the way in which we can behave in society and coexist with this virus,” said Weiss.  

Depending on the results, the new testing method could potentially receive emergency authorization from the FDA for use across the country. 

Weiss said it could be just a matter of months until machines are readily available and approved by the FDA.

“The virus is very smart, but it will not outsmart the human mind,” Weiss said.