News & Events, Tech, Wellness / Self-Care

Scientists invent masks that glow when exposed to COVID

I definitely want one.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Dec 28, 2021

Using antibodies taken from ostrich eggs, a group of scientists at a university in western Japan have developed masks that illuminate when exposed to ultraviolet light if they contain evidence or residue of the coronavirus.


The team at Kyoto Prefectural University, led by president Yasuhiro Tsukamoto, 52, thinks that the masks would provide users with a simple way to see if they have contracted the virus. The team hopes to obtain regulatory approval to market the masks next year, as testing continues to put them to practical use.


How was it made?

Antibodies, or proteins that neutralize foreign substances in the body, are produced by ostriches in a variety of ways. The team successfully extracted a considerable quantity of antibodies from the eggs laid by female ostriches after injecting an inactive and non-threatening variant of the coronavirus into them in February of last year.


After that, the team created a custom filter to go inside the face mask. The filter can be removed and sprayed with a fluorescent dye containing ostrich egg coronavirus antibodies. When exposed to UV light, the filter will glow if the virus is present.


When the researchers tested 32 persons infected with the coronavirus for up to 10 days, they discovered that all of the masks they wore shone under UV light, but that this glow disappeared as time passed and their viral load reduced.


What’s next?

The next step for Tsukamoto’s team is to broaden the experiment to include 150 people. After wearing one of the experimental masks and checking it for light, the university president learned that he was positive for COVID-19. A polymerase chain reaction test confirmed his diagnosis.


In a statement, Tsukamoto shared: “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.”


As more and more people are contracting COVID-19 and its variants at various degrees of seriousness, having access to a mask that glows when exposed to viral loads can be extremely useful. Many people who have had the virus in the past year have been asymptomatic, and they have caused many instances of undetectable spread.


It is insane that we are still living through a pandemic, but the feat of science is the creation of tools such as these that can help us eradicate the virus from our lives once and for all.


In case you missed it, check out these seed-filled masks that bloom when discarded.


Photo via Kyoto Prefectural University