Japanese scientists are developing face masks that glow under UV light if the wearer has COVID-19

People walk across a crossing near Shimbashi Station in Tokyo Thursday, July 29, 2021.
The research team at the Kyoto Prefectural University hopes to obtain authorization to sell their masks in 2022.
Kantaro Komiya/Associated Press
  • Researchers at a Japanese university are working on a face mask that glows under UV light if the wearer has COVID-19.
  • The mask includes a filter that shows traces of the virus when sprayed with a fluorescent dye containing antibodies.
  • The research team behind the project hopes to obtain authorization to sell the masks in 2022.

A team of Japanese scientists has created a prototype for a mask filter that glows under ultraviolet light and reveals traces of the COVID-19 virus if the wearer is infected. 

Scientists from the Kyoto Prefectural University say that the masks they've made contain an additional filter within its layers. When removed and sprayed with a fluorescent dye containing antibodies, the filter will glow when placed under UV light if traces of the COVID-19 virus are detected. 

According to a press release from the university, the team developed this method by first injecting an inactive form of the COVID-19 virus into female ostriches. From there, they worked to extract antibodies — a protein produced by the immune system in response to bacterias and viruses — from the eggs of these female ostriches, infusing these antibodies into the fluorescent spray. 

A demonstration of how the antibody spray coupled with a mask filter shows traces of COVID-19 when held under UV light.
Researchers in Japan say they have created a mask filter and antibody spray that can quickly detect COVID-19, by having traces of the COVID virus light up when the filter is held under ultraviolet light.
Kyoto Prefectural University

Speaking to Japanese news outlet Kyodo News, researcher Yasuhiro Tsukamoto said that he conducted experiments with 32 people infected with COVID-19 over a 10-day timeframe. The researchers found that the masks worn by these 32 testers glowed brightly and showed traces of the COVID-19 virus after being sprayed with the antibody spray and held under a UV light. Tsukamoto's team also noted that the glow faded over time as the patients recovered and their viral load decreased. 

Tsukamoto intends to trial the mask on 150 participants in the team's next round of testing, and hopes to get the green light from the Japanese government to sell the masks in 2022.

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