A Western Michigan University professor has developed a device that can detect issues with the respiratory system.

Dr. Alessandor Dos Santos was one of five people who received a university grant for COVID-19 response research. He has been working from home with his own equipment to create the hardware and software for the device.

The device looks like a breathalyzer but has different functions. It works by a patient breathing into the device that will determine how the respiratory system is functioning. This will be essential down the road as COVID-19 patients could experience lung fibrosis long after their diagnosis due to the severity the virus can have on the lungs.

“There are long term chronic effects that can come from COVID,” Santos said. “This device is going to help not only to test those who have had COVID and they are potentially developing these long-term complications, but those that are having respiratory secondary problems from contacting the virus.”

Normally, a device of this type could cost as high as $2,000 but this device is slated to cost $150.

While patients can recover from COVID-19, it does not mean they are out of the woods. Santos said the effects of COVID-19 will linger post pandemic.

“Most chronic cases will follow you for the rest of your life and it gets worse once you get into the sixth, seventh, eighth decade of life,” Santos said. “In those situations, we are going to see the repercussions of this respiratory pandemic for the next generation.”

Coronavirus is a SARS type disease and during the SARS outbreak in 2002, there were more recovered cases than deaths from the disease, according to the CDC. As of July 30, 10 million people have recovered from the coronavirus worldwide making this type of device more critical.

“I forecast the need for following these patients as they move forward because these secondary problems that come from the lungs becoming more fibrotic follow you the rest of your life,” Santos said. “You have to be quick on picking up when this is happening, when this is going worse so intervention can be provided.

Santos is not able to produce mass quantities of the device by himself but with a partner, he will be able to produce thousands of devices within three to four months once the device tests are done.

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