The field of wearable technology is expanding rapidly and could provide opportunities for simple, accurate detection of infectious agents outside of a laboratory setting.

Collins and colleagues engineered a face mask that can detect exhaled viral particles in the wearer’s breath. The mask incorporates a series of microfluidic chambers that can sequentially extract, amplify and detect viral DNA through the use of CRISPR-based technology. The result is indicated by a color change or fluorescent/luminescent signal—it can also be linked to a mobile phone application for real-time data analysis and monitoring. Notably, the detection limit for SARS-CoV-2 was similar to that of standard PCR testing.

The SARS-CoV-2 mask sensor does not require a power source or any specialist laboratory equipment or knowledge, and it is stable at room temperature. This ability to combine protection and accurate sensing functions in a wearable device could be applied to other infectious diseases and a variety of field applications for healthcare workers.

Nat. Biotechnol. (2021)