Scientists in Japan have created special masks that are able to detect and possibly help prevent the spread of COVID-19 using ostrich antibodies.
The masks, developed by researchers at Kyoto Prefectural University, are coated with ostrich antibodies to capitalize on the bird’s strong immune system that makes it resistant to certain diseases, Dezeen reported.
Kyoto Prefectural University President Yasuhiro Tsukamoto, the project’s lead scientist, is a veterinary professor who has done extensive research on ostriches for years.
“Ostriches rarely die from filth, minor injuries or illnesses, and [they] live for 60 years,” Tsukamoto was quoted as saying. “I realized that the secret of longevity is that it is resistant to infectious diseases with its amazing immunity and resilience, so I started researching ostrich antibodies in earnest.”
According to the researchers, they created coronavirus antibodies by injecting the ostriches with a spike protein of the coronavirus. Afterward, they “extracted the ostriches’ antibodies from the yolk of the birds’ eggs” and then “bound them to the filters in the mask using polylactic acid.”
While antibodies sourced from other animals can cost millions of dollars per gram, those from ostrich eggs reportedly cost less than $1,000 per gram. Ostrich antibodies can also be collected in just about two weeks, making them a more viable option, according to Tsukamoto.
“If virus infection can be detected by putting a mouth filter carrying an ostrich antibody in a ‘disposable mask’ that is used every day in the world, non-symptomatic infected people such as super spreaders can be voluntarily treated at an early stage,” he pointed out. “It is a handy and inexpensive device that prevents the invasion of the COVID-19 virus into the human body.”
Tsukamoto discovered that he himself was positive for COVID-19 after the mask that he wore glowed upon testing, reported Reuters. He later confirmed the diagnosis after taking a standard COVID-19 test.
To make masks that glow, Tsukamoto’s team first coats removable mask filters with ostrich antibodies to target the novel coronavirus. The mask filters are then sprayed with a chemical liquid after several hours of use. The filters belonging to anyone infected with COVID-19 glow in the nose and mouth regions when placed under ultraviolet light.
A clinical trial that involved participants wearing the masks for eight hours proved the filter’s efficacy in detecting the virus. When placed under ultraviolet light, the filters from the masks worn by COVID-19 positive patients glowed in the nose and mouth regions.
The research team has filed a patent for the special face mask in a bid to make it more readily available later this year. In addition to finding ways to make the mask detect other diseases, the scientists hope to make special masks that can glow under a mobile phone’s light.