New COVID-19 Test Use Sensor To Rapidly Detect Coronavirus

The researchers had previously used graphene, a sheet-like form of carbon, to develop a wireless sensor.

A lot is being done by scientists across the world to find an easy and swift way of detecting coronavirus and researchers have now developed a new type of rapid test for COVDI-19. According to a news agency, Scientists, including some from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the US, use multiple kinds of data in this test. For this, they use a low-cost senor to analyze small volumes of blood or saliva in less than ten minutes. This is an improvement in the time taken for the COVID-19 test and may enable at-home diagnosis of the same.

The researchers had previously used graphene, a sheet-like form of carbon, to develop a wireless sensor. It can detect extremely low levels of any specific compounds in the saliva, blood, or sweat to monitor conditions like gout. As described in the journal Matter, these sensors use a plastic sheet etched with a laser to generate a 3D graphene structure having tiny pores. These pores are sensitive enough to detect compounds with high accuracy whose presence is very low. According to the study, “the graphene structures are coupled with antibodies – immune system molecules that are sensitive to specific proteins like those present on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2.”

The new version of the sensor has been named as SARS-CoV-2 RapidPlex. It contains proteins and antibodies that allow it to detect the presence of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 itself, chemical markers of inflammation which indicate the severity of the COVDI-19 infection, and antibodies created by the body to fight the pathogen.

“This is the only telemedicine platform I’ve seen that can give information about the infection in three types of data with a single sensor,” co-author Wei Gao from Caltech was quoted as saying in the report.

“We can simply check all these levels in as little as a few minutes so we have a clear picture about the infection, including early infection, immunity, and severity,” Gao added.

This is a big advancement as the established coronavirus testing technologies normally take hours and even days to give results. Moreover, they require expensive and complicated equipment in the test. On the other hand, the new system is compact and simple, researchers said.

Researchers clarified that the device has so far been tested only in the lab by using a small number of saliva and blood samples available for medical research purposes. These samples were collected from those who were tested positive or negative for COVID-19.

Though preliminary results are satisfactory and highly accurate, the scientists believe that a large scale testing must be performed on patients to definitively determine the accuracy of the sensor. They plan to test for how long the sensor lasts when used for regular testing and how suitable it will be for in-home use. Gao said their real aim is at-home testing and it can be later modified for other types of infectious disease testing at home.

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