A revolutionary new system which can detect COVID-19 particles in the air is being trialled in the North East.
Its developers say it could help provide early warning of the spread of COVID-19 or other viruses, enabling a more rapid response to potential outbreaks.
Two units, which are about the size of an office printer, are now in situ at Teesside International Airport and at a primary school.
The machines suck in air, and convert it to a liquid which can then be analysed to identify airborne pathogens using DNA sequencing.
The units run automatically, and provide real time results without the need for a scientist or engineer to be present, or for the samples to be sent to a laboratory.
The company behind the system is Sedgefield-based Kromek. It is a new application for their analysers which were initially developed to provide protection from terrorist threats for the US security market by screening for explosives or toxic gases.
Dr Arnab Basu, CEO of Kromek, said: “Our system can augment the government’s Test and Trace system by enabling early identification of potential exposure to the virus while supporting the safe return of visitors to public spaces like mass transport, retail outlets and entertainment venues.
“We also believe that the continuous monitoring with our system, which can test for a wide spectrum of viruses as well as mutations of COVID-19, has significant potential for protecting against the outbreak of pandemics in the future.”
Teesside mayor Ben Houchen says the system could be greatly influential in helping reopen the skies for travel, providing a much needed boost to an industry decimated by the pandemic.