Ostrich cells have been revealed as offering a possible new way forward in detecting coronavirus.
Yasuhiro Tsukamoto, who led the team, hopes that that the masks could offer an easier alternative to lateral flow and PCR tests.
The masks contain antibodies extracted from ostrich eggs, which glow when exposed to ultraviolet light if they detect the virus.
Ostriches are extremely resistant to disease because of their ability to produce several different types of antibody, alongside various proteins that neutralise foreign entities in the body, Japan News reports.
Subsequently, researchers decided to inject some female ostriches with a harmless and inactive form of coronavirus in February 2021. They then waited for them to hatch eggs, before they extracted the antibodies from within.
A mask was then developed to contain space for a filter to fit inside, and 32 participants who had coronavirus wore them for eight hours, The Guardian reports.
After eight hours, the filter was removed and shone under an ultraviolent light after being sprayed with a fluorescent dye that contained the coronavirus antibodies from the ostrich eggs. The dye causes the mask to glow if coronavirus is present.
All of the masks worn by 32 infected participants glowed under the UV light. However, over the course of up to 10 days, the glow began to fade, mirroring the virus weakening in the patients as time went by.
The next phase of testing is set to incorporate 150 participants.
Tsukamoto noted how one of the masks even helped him identify that he had tested positive for the virus himself, which the researcher confirmed using a polymerase chain reaction test.
He concluded, ‘We can mass-produce antibodies from ostriches at a low cost. In the future, I want to make this into an easy testing kit that anyone can use.’
Researchers hope that they will be approved by the government and ready for public use sometime in 2022.