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The Army has put out a bid for wearable coronavirus detectors. They need to be wearable or minimally invasive and could end up looking like a Fitbit fitness tracker, seen here.
The Army has put out a bid for wearable coronavirus detectors. They need to be wearable or minimally invasive and could end up looking like a Fitbit fitness tracker, seen here. (Heather Benit/Stars and Stripes)

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The Army is seeking to rapidly field wearable coronavirus detectors, in a push to get an earlier warning of a virus that has infected nearly 5,000 service members.

On Monday, the military put out a $25 million bid through its Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium to develop the device. The Army hopes to award up to 10 contracts within weeks.

“There is a dire and urgent need for development of rapid, accurate wearable diagnostics to identify and isolate pre-symptomatic COVID-19 cases and track/prevent the spread of the virus,” the Army’s proposal said.

The service is looking for existing, proven technology rather than something new. Companies with a ready manufacturing capability and ability to produce on a large scale also are key, the bid said.

The kits, which need to be wearable or “minimally invasive,” should not affect the user’s daily activity. The equipment also should be user-friendly with results that can be interpreted by non-laboratory personnel.

A key challenge in stemming the spread of coronavirus has been early detection and the problem of those without symptoms unknowingly spreading the virus.

“Physiologic surveillance for COVID-19 positive individuals that do not yet show clear medical symptoms is an ultimate goal,” the proposal said.

The wearable device should monitor for symptoms such as elevated temperature, respiratory difficulty, antibodies against COVID-19 and molecular biomarkers indicative of virus exposure, the solicitation said.

vandiver.john@stripes.com Twitter: @john_vandiver

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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