TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona State University researchers are developing a new test for COVID-19 using similar technology to that found in scratch and sniff products.
"For testing for COVID, we really want this to be really fast, really cheap, and accessible to everyone," said Dr. Rick Gerkin, an ASU School of Life Sciences associate research professor who is leading the project.
Loss of smell is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, which led the researchers to develop the new test.
"All you have to do is smell it, and ask is it there or not?" Gerkin said.
The self-test will have different concentrations of a certain smell.
"It's just like reading like the eye chart, right? What's the lowest line you can read? So what's the lowest concentration you can smell?" Gerkin said.
It might seem like an obvious thing, but Gerkin says people aren't all that good at realizing they've lost their smell.
"If you take people into a lab and assess their sense of smell, a large number of people who think they smell just fine -- they don't smell well at all," Gerkin said.
And while the smell test isn't a substitute for a COVID-19 saliva or nasal test, researchers hope it'll be useful in rural and underserved communities.
"Having something that's pretty good, and very fast, and very cheap and can be done often, can beat something that's expensive and hard to reach," Gerkin said.
The National Institute of Health funds the research. ASU's COVID-19 smell test should hit the market within the next few months, and while it's not the end-all solution for COVID-19 testing, researchers believe it can help.
"It could make a small dent in the problem. And even a small dent in such a big problem is worth doing," Gerkin said.