A fit bit-like device that monitors COVID-19 exposure through human sweat is on the horizon, thanks to a Dallas-based research company.
EnLiSense LLC is currently commercializing the device, which is worn as a wristwatch.
“If you are infected or if you are building towards an infection, then your body basically responds by producing immune biomarkers in the circulation just like how a glucose sensor works,” said Sriram Muthukumar, EnLiSense CEO and co-founder. “In sweat, some of these markers are present and as soon as you see an elevation of those markers associated with infection, the sensor detects and reports it.”
The wearable sensor links to an app that can be downloaded onto a mobile device.
“The phone basically alerts the user to the fact that those markers are rising and that you may want to get tested,” Muthukumar told Dallas Express. “The sensor on the watch will tell you broadly the rate which the biomarkers are increasing.”
Muthukumar added that the device assists with supportive decision-making.
“The aim is to make sure you take preventive measures to ensure that your infection doesn’t get out of control,” he said.
Muthukumar and EnLiSense co-founder, Shalini Prasad, are funded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is a U.S. Department of Human Health Services office. They were approached about developing the device for COVID-19 detection after the virus emerged.
“When we had gotten funding, it was about various infections for a pandemic flu-type of scenario,” Muthukumar said in an interview. “We didn’t anticipate COVID but then we ended up looking at those markers. Where we are now is we have shown that this can be done. Our next step efforts are to basically work towards regulatory approval and once we get that medical regulation from the FDA, then we would be able to put our product out on the market and that would take a year or year and a half to get it out there.”
Although the University of Texas at Dallas was involved in validation, Muthukumar, who is a BARDA federal contractor, said the intellectual property (IP) for Sweat Senser DX belongs to EnLiSense and that the device is an EnLiSense invention.
“You can use the Sweat Senser DX to monitor whether biomarker levels remain below the threshold, whether they increase beyond the threshold and the time they stay above the threshold,” he said. “This is where the clinical input comes in that is used to determine whether you are still in the infected state and in the state in which you can spread the infection.”
Prasad presented the invention at the American Chemical Society (ACS)’s meeting in April.
“COVID is one type of infection that doesn’t necessarily show in physiological symptoms like the flu but your biomarkers don’t lie,” Muthukumar added. “If you’re not showing symptoms, it just means your body is fighting those pathogens and the fight for the pathogens will result in the elevation of the markers.”