To the Disappointment of Swab Sickos Everywhere, FDA Green Lights First Breath Test for COVID-19

To the Disappointment of Swab Sickos Everywhere, FDA Green Lights First Breath Test for COVID-19
Image: Ed Jones / AFP, Getty Images

Don’t tell me that you didn’t like having a long Q-tip shoved so deep into your nostril that you felt like the swap was scratching an unknown itch in the back of your brainstem. Well, fine, now there’s another option for anybody too much of a wuss to take the “long 3,” as we “test-heads” or “swabbies” like to call it.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday they were authorizing the first COVID diagnostic test that uses breath samples to determine infection.

The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer is described as a carry-on luggage-sized bag connected to a tube that a person breathes into, according to the company’s website. The company and federal agency both boast that results should be available in just three minutes after taking the test.

Jeff Shuren, the director of the FDA’s Centre for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement that this innovation also helps position the country for “the next public health emergency.”

The breathalyzer was tested with a pool of 2,409 people, some of whom were positive for COVID and others who weren’t, according to the FDA. The test was able to identify 91.2% of COVID-positive patients and 99.3% of COVID-negative patients. The study also pointed out that it is especially effective for people in places where the virus is less widespread, with a negative predictive value of 99.6%.

The FDA also stated that the test was just as effective at identifying infection with the Omicron variant as it was with older variants. The PCR test has long been considered the most accurate test compared to the rapid antigen or at-home tests. Rapid tests have about 85% accuracy in determining COVID-positivity. PCR tests are usually much more accurate since they can detect more minute traces of the virus.

There is no word yet as to the breathalyzer’s general availability or overall cost, meaning those of us that actually enjoy getting all swabbed up can enjoy it for at least a little longer. InspectIR did not return a request for comment by press time, but the New York Times reported that the company will be able to produce around 100 machines a week.

In the meantime, let’s remember the fun experiences we had with our long cotton swabs. I will always gag fondly over flashbacks to all the times I internally shouted, “ok that’s far enough,” as the stick proved to me that the journey was far from over. One day, I’ll take all the leftover tests and make a massive tower out of them, only to remember there’s probably still at least one swab still lodged in between my frontal cortex and olfactory bulb.