Japanese researchers have developed masks that use ostrich antibodies to detect Covid-19 by glowing under ultraviolet light.
The discovery by Yasuhiro Tsukamoto and his team at Kyoto Prefectural University in western Japan could provide for low-cost testing of the virus at home, they said in a press release.
The scientists started by creating a mask filter coated with ostrich antibodies targeting the novel coronavirus, based on previous research showing the birds have strong resistance to disease.
In a small study, test subjects wore the masks, and after eight hours, the filters were removed and sprayed with a chemical that glows under ultraviolet light if the virus is present. The filters worn by people infected with Covid-19 glowed around the nose and mouth areas.
The team hopes to further develop the masks so that they will glow automatically, without special lighting, if the virus is detected.
Tsukamoto, a veterinary professor and the president of the university, has studied ostriches for years, looking for ways to adapt their immunity power to fight bird flu, allergies, and other diseases.
Tsukamoto told the Kyodo news agency he discovered his own positivity for Covid-19 after he wore one of the special masks and found that it glowed when checked. The diagnosis was confirmed after a standard test.
A coronavirus sample glows on a face mask filter under an ultraviolet light after being sprayed with a fluorescent dye containing ostrich antibodies. Picture courtesy of Japan Times, Kyoto Prefectural University / via Kyodo