Scientists have developed a handheld diagnostic device, capable of detecting the presence of the SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein in just one second. The new, ultra-rapid testing technology is powered by microfluidics and contains antibodies specific to the viral protein. The study was published in the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology.
When it comes to accurate testing, the PCR test is considered the gold standard. However, the trade-off is that this test requires specialized users, equipment, and facilities, all of which lengthen processing times. Rapid testing methods that can be done on the go could help catch positive cases sooner and limit the chances of spreading to complement global vaccination efforts.
“This could alleviate slow COVID-19 testing turnaround time issues,” said Minghan Xian, one of the device’s creators.
The researchers had previously demonstrated how their technology could be used to detect disease biomarkers for conditions such as Zika virus infections, cerebral spinal fluid leaks, and even heart attacks.
According to Xian, the core of the device contains a disposable biosensor strip, similar to those in commercially available glucose monitors for managing diabetes. “Within the microfluidic channel, a few electrodes are exposed to fluid. One is coated with gold, and COVID-relevant antibodies are attached to the gold surface via a chemical method,” Xian explained.
What makes the device unique is the ability to amplify the signals from minute amounts of viral protein present in a biological sample, a trait that enables both the speed and precision of the innovation.
“Our sensor system, a circuit board, uses a transistor to amplify the electrical signal, which then gets converted into a number on the screen,” said Xian. “The magnitude of this number depends on the concentration of antigen, the viral protein, present within our test solution.”