Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a rapid test for COVID-19 that can detect the virus within one second, the fastest of current detection methods. The sensor system method has been published in the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B.
"This could alleviate slow Covid-19 testing turnaround time issues," said Meghan Xian, chemical engineering doctoral candidate at the University of Florida. The sensor is similar to glucose test strips for diabetics, with a small 'microfluidic' channel to introduce the fluid to be tested.
"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 said.
To detect the virus, scientists need to amplify the numbers of the biomarker, such as the copies of viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the common polymerase chain reaction technique for Covid-19 detection, or amplify the binding signal for a target biomarker.
"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."
The circuit board (but not the test strip) is reusable, leading researchers to hope that costs for testing can be reduced. In addition to this, the same system can be modified for quick results related to other forms of disease detection, they said.