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Members of a health care team monitor temperature screening equipment as travelers pass thermal monitors at Changi Airport, Singapore, in March 2020. Photo: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A COVID-19 breath test designed to return accurate results within one minute has received provisional authorization from Singapore health regulators Monday, per a statement from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Why it matters: An accurate test like this breathalyzer, developed by NUS startup Breathonix, could play a key role in reviving the pandemic-hit travel industry, per Bloomberg.

  • NUS Professor Freddy Boey, who led the university team working with Breathonix noted in the statement: "The pandemic is likely to go on for several years. Mass, repeated testing has to be widely adopted as a key public health strategy to support the safe reopening of economies."

The big picture: Researchers conducted three clinical trials of the BreFence Go COVID-19 breath test system from June 2020 to April this year.

  • These were held at at Singapore's National Centre for Infectious Diseases, the country's Changi Airport and also in Dubai in collaboration with United Arab Emirates scientists.
  • The breathalyzer "achieved a sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 95% in one early Singapore-based pilot study that involved 180 patients," Bloomberg notes.

How it works: The breath test was developed from Breathonix's cancer detection technology and works much like a breathalyzer that can detect alcohol.

  • Breathonix CEO Jia Zhunan, an NUS graduate, said in the statement the breath test is non-invasive.
  • "Users only need to breathe out normally into the disposable mouthpiece provided, so there will not be any discomfort," Jia said. "Cross-contamination is unlikely as the disposable mouthpiece has a one-way valve and a saliva trap to prevent inhalation or saliva from entering the machine."

What's next: The manufacturers are working with the Singapore Ministry of Health to run a "deployment trial" of their technology at a land checkpoint for incoming travelers.

Go deeper

Florida withholds funds from 2 school districts over mask mandates

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida's Department of Education announced Monday it has withheld funds from two districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' order banning mask mandates in schools.

Driving the news: Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases largely driven by the Delta variant, several Florida school districts have implemented mask mandates, despite threats from the Republican governor and state officials to withhold funds for doing so.

Aug 31, 2021 - Health

FDA's top vaccine leaders are leaving

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Two of the FDA's top vaccine regulators, Marion Gruber and Phil Krause, are leaving the agency, which was first reported by BioCentury.

Why it matters: The FDA appears to be increasingly rudderless at a crucial time in the pandemic. The agency still has no permanent commissioner and now is losing two highly regarded vaccine experts all while officials weigh full approval of the COVID-19 vaccines for adults, initial authorization for kids, and booster shots for many.

Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question — Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay.
  2. Health: Worsening crisis at Rikers Island jail spurs call for action — 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising.
  3. Politics: White House invites call with Nicki Minaj to discuss vaccine — Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.