Face mask made with ostrich extract detects COVID-19 by glowing under UV light

KYOTO, Japan — You may soon be able to check if you’ve been exposed to coronavirus from your own home — thanks in part to ostriches. Japanese scientists have developed a new face mask made with ostrich extract that can detect COVID-19 with the help of a fluorescent light and a smartphone.

The non-woven mask has an ostrich antibody-bearing mouth filter. It was developed by a research group led by Yasuhiro Tsukamoto, a doctor of veterinary medicine and president of Kyoto Prefectural University.

“The ostrich antibody for corona placed on the mouth filter of the mask captures the coronavirus in coughing, sneezing, and water,” the researchers explain in a statement per South West News Service.

Ostriches are capable of producing different antibodies that neutralize foreign entities in the body. These antibodies are extracted from ostrich eggs from birds that have been injected with an inactive, non-threatening form of the coronavirus. By spraying the antibodies on a filter from a worn mask, the reaction can detect whether COVID-19 is present.

Face mask made from ostrich extract
New mask that glows in the dark when COVID-19 is detected. (Credit: Kyoto Prefectural University)

The presence of COVID in exhaled breath is claimed to be detected by shining a fluorescent light on the mask to reveal patches of the virus. Researchers say the LED light of a smartphone can also be used as a light source to greatly widen those able to use the innovation.

Tsukamoto and the group experimented over ten days with 32 COVID-19 patients and found that the masks they wore glowed under UV light.

“A fluorescent dye-labeled ostrich antibody is reacted and the virus is visualized by irradiating with light,” the researchers write. “We also succeeded in visualizing the virus antigen on the ostrich antibody-carrying filter when using the LED ultraviolet black light and the LED light of the smartphone as the light source. This makes it easy to use on the mask even at home. Visualization of the illness is possible.

“The presence of the virus can also be confirmed from the ostrich antibody-carrying mask used by a person infected with the new coronavirus for 8 hours,” they add.

A patent application has been filed for the new COVID-19 face mask. and there are plans to commercialize inspection kits and sell them in Japan and overseas, possibly by this year.

South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.

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