Israeli scientists are testing a new ultra-fast gargle-and-spit test for coronavirus on hundreds of patients, and report that so far it is proving 95-percent accurate.
The developers have built a USB-powered machine the size of an ashtray, which takes just one second to conduct light analysis of mouthwash that a patient has gargled.
They are about halfway through a trial of 400 people at Israel’s largest hospital, Sheba Medical Center, and say that if accuracy levels continue to impress, they expect it to become available internationally by the end of the year.
The innovation team, drawn from Sheba and the Newsight imaging company, says that the technology has the potential to replace PCR testing, which includes an unpleasant swabbing process and requires lengthy lab analysis, as the main screening method used worldwide.
PCR tests are believed to be around 80% accurate. Accelerated PCR testing, the fastest current method, is not widely available and with a 15-minute turnaround at its best, comes at a financial cost and with a reduction in accuracy levels.
“This system is very rapid, cheap, and is looking reliable,” Prof. Eli Schwartz, head of the trial and of Sheba’s Center for Geographic Medicine, told The Times of Israel. “It’s suitable for mass screening, as well as airport screening, screening at nursing homes, and even screening at home.”
He added: “The idea is to mostly replace PCR tests, especially in places where you need mass screening.”
Schwartz said that the system will give highly accurate positive-negative results, and PCR testing will only be needed if results are borderline, or if medical professionals need detailed information on the viral load, which his test will not provide.
Patients rinse with 10 milliliters of a special mouthwash, and then spit into a tube. The sample is placed in a machine that analyzes it, and reports whether it matches the profile of a sample infected with COVID-19.
The machine, called the SpectraLIT, does not require any chemicals, and no medical skills are required to operate it.
Eli Assoolin, CEO of Newsight, told The Times of Israel that the machine shines light through the sample and onto a special chip. “A light source goes thought it, and part of the light is absorbed, and the rest is captured by the sensors,” he said.
The process is known as determining the sample’s “spectral signature”: matter reflects different light signatures, depending on its composition.
Artificial intelligence tools have made it possible for the developers to determine what the signature for mouthwash from a coronavirus-positive person looks like, as opposed to mouthwash from anyone else.
In the weeks before the current trial, staff fed spectral signature data into the chip from numerous people whose positivity/negativity state was already known.
Data gathered by the sensors for each person’s spectral signature was entered into an algorithm, which used it to build a profile of infected and non-infected people.
If the new screening method becomes widespread and makes testing more accessible, as he hopes, Schwartz said it will prove “lifesaving” by alerting people to self-isolate before they would otherwise know.
Assoolin said it will also solve a major problem of PCR supply shortage. “There’s a big shortage of PCR test kits, and we’re getting rid of the need for these costly kits and chemicals needed for processing,” he commented.
Assoolin said that patents have been filed for the technology, internationally. Virusight Diagnostics, a company jointly established by Sheba and Newsight, can quickly start mass production of the machines and materials for tests, he stated.
He added: “We hope that by the end of this year the system will be commercially available to everyone, and before then we hope it will be used in large pilots, including in airports.”
The tube and specially-formulated mouthwash that are given to patients will cost 25 cents, a little less than a shekel. Developers say they are hoping that once the machines are in mass production, they will be available from $200.
Newsight Imaging, an Israeli startup from Ness Ziona announced today that it has received Sheba Medical Center’s IRB Ethics (“Helsinki”) Committee approval to conduct a pilot program for rapid COVID-19 detection tests.
The tests will be conducted using Newsight’s revolutionary spectral device based on its developed Spectrometer-on-Chip. The device, which is about the size of a computer mouse, can identify and classify evidence of a virus in the body in less than a second, using a sample of fluid (blood serum or saliva sample) inserted into a disposable test cuvette.
The spectral technology for virus detection is not a new scientific discovery. However, Newsight’s innovation manifests in the ability to bring an expensive device (hundreds of thousands of dollars), to be implemented in a single cost-effective chip, using an AI algorithm to separate the profile of a human infected with a specific virus, from a human infected with a different virus or from a healthy human.
Newsight’s device simultaneously checks 1024 spectral channels, currently in the visible light spectrum of 400-700 nm. During the next few months, the company plans to present a device that will be capable of examining a spectral profile in wavelengths of up to 1100 nm.
Medical experts in the infectious and tropical disease departments at Sheba Medical Center are already working with Newsight.
Initial feasibility studies of the device have shown an ability to separate between alpha-coronaviruses (Alpha-CoV) and beta-coronaviruses (Beta-CoV), with an accuracy close to 100%, in addition to feasibility studies conducted on blood serum samples of people infected with the Dengue virus, which were found to be extremely accurate.
Newsight and Sheba’s ARC Innovation Center intend to establish a joint company that will make the solutions commercially available to the medical community around the globe.
“Newsight is yet another outstanding example of how [email protected] Medical Center and the Israeli start-up ecosystem are working in tandem to reinvent existing technology to battle the scourge of COVID-19,” said Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, Chief Medical and Innovation Center at Sheba Medical Center.
Newsight Imaging’s previous machine vision chips are already integrated in dozens of different devices and solutions in the Automotive, Robotics, and Advanced industrial manufacturing fields.
In the spectral field, several months ago Newsight signed with Mekorot, Israel’s National Water Company, to jointly develop real time water quality monitoring solutions, and is currently about to successfully complete the first milestone of the joint pilot.
Moreover, the company has already sold a license to develop virus and bacteria detection devices based on its technology, to the artificial intelligence company AIinnoBio from Hong Kong, which was founded by the super-investor Dr. George So.
About Sheba Medical Center
Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer is the largest and most comprehensive medical center in the Middle East. Sheba is also the only medical center in Israel that combines an acute care hospital and a rehabilitation hospital on one campus, and is at the forefront of medical treatments, patient care, research, innovation and education.
In 2019 & 2020 Newsweek magazine named Sheba one of the top ten hospitals in the world. To learn more, visit: eng.sheba.co.il.
About Newsight Imaging
Newsight Imaging Ltd (www.nstimg.com) develops advanced CMOS Image sensor chips for 3D machine vision and spectral analysis. Newsight’s depth camera sensors for machine vision serve verticals such as Mobile, Robotics, Industry 4.0, Automotive Safety and Surveillance.
Its unique eTOF™️ technology enhances the short distance iTOF and provides accurate depth sensing for longer distances even outdoors. In addition, Newsight developed a spectrometer-on-chip backed by AI, demonstrated in the development kit- SpectraLIT™️.
The SpectraLIT™️ offers a unique and affordable solution for remote health, real time diagnosis and quality inspection solutions for Water, Food& Beverage etc.
The company has 14 US and EU patents, was named “Cool Vendor” in the Nobel sensors category by Gartner and received 3 grants by the Israeli Innovation Authority.
SpectraLIT™ Product Brief
The SpectraLIT™ is Newsight’s evaluation kit for its Spectrometer on Chip NSP2020.
The NSP2020 is a small size chip, which detects light intensity in wavelengths between 400 to 700nm and provides 1024 12bit digital vectors, representing the light intensity of each wavelength.
The 1024 vectors allowing creation of high-resolution spectral profiles of the tested substance.
The NSP2020 is a high-speed device, able to acquire up-to 40,000 spectral profiles per second, providing ultra-fast analysis of the spectral features of the tested material.
Run by Embedded Cortex M4 MCU, the SpectraLIT is controlled by a Windows-based demo SW allowing absorbance spectral signature acquisition, display, and analysis.
The SpectraLIT is using standard cuvettes which are easily inserted through a slide covered with top lid, creates full isolation of the tested substance from external ambient light.
Using special developed algorithm, the SpectraLIT system, can compare tested substance spectral profile to profiles stored in local or remote database, allowing detection and identification of matching materials previously analyzed by the SpectraLIT.
• Single Spectral profile acquisition • Dynamic or fixed graph axis
• Batch acquisition • Spectral profile Database
• Matching test • Reference setup
• Search test • Light time and frame averaging set up
• Zoom in/out on signature • Displayed curve filtering