As the world struggles with the Covid-19 pandemic, an innovation that provides instant results could be the solution to limited testing kits in Kenya.
The Rapid Covix- Breathalyzer could help developing countries contain the spread of infectious viral diseases such as Ebola and Covid-19.
Developed by two secondary school students from St Thomas Girls Secondary School in Kilifi County, the kit uses a glass slide to trap the breath of a patient.
The breath is then analysed by inbuilt microscopes and the results are transmitted directly and read by an app on a mobile phone or a computer.
Hospitals will only require to change the glass slide for each patient to avoid contamination.
According to the concept note, the testing kit is an advanced unit with fluorescent microscope that has biomarker sensors to detect infections — bacterial and viral — in this case from influenza and corona family.
The test kit was used on mice and had positive results, according to the students. The mice were infected with influenza virus and breath tests were carried after 24 hours. “This technology is cheap and less invasive compared to other methods of testing. As the infection progresses, the levels of VOC released in the breath can change hence this device too can be used to monitor the progress of the disease over time,” said the students.
Speaking to the Nation yesterday, Swabrina Chepkemoi and Marrieta Halima explained that they developed the device to reduce congestion in hospitals after they realised that Kenya was unable to get enough testing kits.
“When we got an opportunity to participate in the exhibition, we took up the challenge to address a key issue that many developing countries have faced since the outbreak of Covid-19 — lack of sufficient test kits,” Swabrina said. “This informed our decision to come up with the Rapid Covix-Breathalyzer testing kit. Beyond winning, we look forward to progressing our project and seeing it positively impact society.”
Asked about the innovation, Dr George Njoroge, a former director of medicinal chemistry at Merck and Eli Lilly pharmaceutical companies in USA, said: “The rapid Covix – Breathalyzer Testing Kit provide an easy way of detecting presence of variety of microbes such as viruses and bacteria. The assay is easy to run and results have been confirmed by a secondary mass spectrometry assay.”
“Future work to establish differentiation of the VOC MIX from different microbes would greatly enhance the utility of their methodology. These girls from St Thomas High are definitely heading in the right direction,” added the co-inventor of'' Victories, the antiviral drug that was approved by US Food and Drug Administration in 2011 for treatment of Hepatitis C.