What device are you using in this setting?
Goedicke-Fritz: We use the Cyranose 320, which is used by the US military to detect the presence of explosives. The device comprises 32 individual polymer sensors, which are activated in varying degrees once they are exposed to VOCs. This creates distinct aroma-signature patterns. These are visualized as so-called "smellprints" in 3D graphical representation.
Is the device being used for medical applications?
Goedicke-Fritz: The device is not yet established as a medical device, though it is already being tested for lung cancer detection. We are currently testing it pertaining to amnionitis. However, we are still in a testing phase as this is essentially artificial intelligence that needs lots of data to train and learn.
Our objective is to teach the device to detect the smellprint for COVID-19.
Is your plan to use the device primarily to screen children for the disease?
Goedicke-Fritz: We work at the Department of General Pediatrics, which means we primarily deal with children. A key issue is that there are age limits as it relates to COVID-19 vaccines for children and transmission tends to occur in schools. What's more, rapid COVID tests are simply too uncomfortable for children, especially for little ones, which is why our efforts focus on this group.
Having said that, we also factor adults into this setting and collaborate with pulmonary critical care.
Your project received funding from the Else Kröner-Fresenius Foundation in November 2021. What are your next steps?
Goedicke-Fritz: We have already submitted our application for the study to the ethics committee. Our goal is to start the measurement process on children in January. All told, we want to include 250 patients to facilitate solid data collection. In the summer, but no later than the end of 2022, we aim to implement the software improvements. Project completion should be in two years.