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People around the world wore masks in their daily lives during the pandemic to help prevent infection. Now, a new kind of mask might help diagnose illness.

Engineers from MIT and Harvard say their new prototype can produce a COVID-19 test result in 90 minutes.

The wearer breathes normally into the mask, and droplets produced by exhaling and coughing collect on a pad. The wearer then presses a button to activate the test. A small bit of water is released, flowing through the pad and rehydrating freeze-dried cells that react to the presence of coronavirus markers.

After about 90 minutes, a colored line indicates whether the result is positive or negative. It looks like a pregnancy test.

The team uses a typical N95 mask and the results were published in Nature Biotechnology. This technology had been developed to detect other viruses such as Ebola. The MIT and Harvard teams have further plans for the technology.

CAPTION: The team uses a typical N95 mask.

“We’ve demonstrated that we can freeze-dry a broad range of synthetic biology sensors to detect viral or bacterial nucleic acids, as well as toxic chemicals, including nerve toxins. We envision that this platform could enable next-generation wearable biosensors for first responders, health-care personnel and military personnel,” MIT researcher James Collins tells  MIT news

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