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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

ORNL, UT Health Science Center to develop COVID-19 screening whistle for home testing

If you've gotten tested for COVID-19, you know the feeling of the swab, but now new technology is changing the game through a whistle.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn — Everyday advances are being made in the fight against COVID-19.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center are working to develop a breath-sampling whistle that could make COVID-19 screening easy to do at home.

If you've gotten tested for COVID-19, you know the feeling of the swab, but now new technology is changing the game through a whistle.

"I believe the best ideas are the simple ones that work," said UTHSC's Dr. Scott Strome.  

It's the first of its kind, an at-home COVID test that only takes seconds.

According to a press release, the breath-sampling whistle incorporates a unique hydrogel material that can capture aerosols from exhaled breath and preserve the samples. The samples could either be sent to a lab for analysis or, if you are doing the test at home, it can be transferred to an accompanying test kit that could detect COVID-19.

Strome has high hopes for the technology, "Our hope is that we can change the paradigm and this can shift over into other fields of use."

It's one of the many initiatives to expand testing. 

The White House recently signed a contract to mass-produce a rapid at-home test. It would give immediate results and give results through your phone. 

"We're doing many things better than we used to. We're taking care of patients better than we used to because we learned how to do that. We're testing more to determine who has the infection," said Dr. William Schaffner with Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

He said rapid tests have the ability to be a game-changer continuing to help identify the virus long before it has the ability to spread.

"We could use them in schools to test adults or children. Or if you have a cluster of infections and you're not sure what causes it, you could run-in with that rapid test," said Schaffner. "I think expanding testing will help us individually and in a public health sense."

The breath-sampling whistle is still in clinical trials.

Doctors said if you're feeling unwell to isolate, don't rely on a particular test.