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A shoebox-sized machine might be the key to keeping athletes clear of COVID-19

By: April Yan

In the Commonwealth Games, there is finally a solution to keep athletes safe from getting infected by Covid called the Biofire machine.

The machine first made its appearance in the Tokyo Olympics. The Biofire can fun a PCR test for 45 infectious diseases, including COVID-19, the flu, the common cold, and gastro. The results come out forty-five minutes later, meaning that if an athlete has any disease, they could be isolated immediately to prevent further spreading.

Sometimes, infected athletes will be removed from the team and taken to the hospital if it is severe, while the rest of the group goes to the game. “Keeping people infection-free can be the difference between no medal and a gold medal,” Australian Institute of Sport chief medical officer David Hughes said.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, 94 Australian athletes were infected with some illness, and Dr. Hughes said that thirty-five athletes developed gastro, and some ended up in the hospital. But now, because of the new Biofire machine, any athlete who is detected with any virus, cases of flu, cold, or gastro will be isolated and treated.

At the Olympics contest in Tokyo, Aussie competitors avoided catching COVID-19 thanks to the machine and the strict rules of mask-wearing and hand washing. “We were able to take in a team of 1000 people, which was one of the largest teams in Tokyo, and no one missed a training session, no one failed to compete,” Dr. Hughes said.

The AIS purchased the machines long before COVID-19 to help a qualified medical doctor and Ph.D. candidate, Dr. Mathew Mooney, research how infectious diseases affect athletes’ performance.

When COVID-19 hit, the machines changed from being an academic resource to a vital part of Australia’s game plan for the Tokyo Olympics.

Dr. Mooney and his machines joined Australia’s Games team in Birmingham this week. The machines are worth $35,000, with each testing pouch, which can assess up to eight people at once, costing $150.

“I’ve heard figures thrown around that a gold medal often takes about a million dollars of investment over four to eight years, so I think it was worth every cent,” said Dr. Hughes.


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