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New One Minute Coronavirus Test Offers More than 90% Accuracy at Dramatically Lower Price

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 14 May 2020
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Image: The breath-test device developed by Professor Gabby Sarusi at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Photo courtesy of Professor Gabby Sarusi)
Image: The breath-test device developed by Professor Gabby Sarusi at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Photo courtesy of Professor Gabby Sarusi)
Israeli researchers have developed and are now validating a test that identifies carriers of the COVID-19 virus in less than a minute with greater than 90% accuracy and at a dramatically lower price than any other method available.

The test, developed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev {(BGU) Beer-Sheva, Israel}, uses a chip with a dense array of metamaterial sensors that was designed specifically for this purpose. Particles from a simple breath test or throat and nose swabs, such as those already currently used for other tests, are placed on the chip. The system then analyzes the biological sample and provides an accurate positive/negative result within a minute via a cloud-connected system. The point-of-care device automatically backs up the results into a database that can be shared by authorities, making it easier than ever to track the course of the virus, as well as triage and treat patients.

The new method is based on the change in the resonance in the THz spectral range imposed by the coronavirus through a THz spectroscopy performed on the device. This spectral range has been employed in recent decades for the fast detection and identification of biological samples. Being electro-optical in nature, rather than biochemical, the test is not sensitive to environmental factors that can affect results of current testing methods.

Each test kit would cost between USD 50-100 to produce, which is far less than the current coronavirus test kits based on amplifying and identifying the viral RNA sequences, and therefore depend on costly reagents and biochemical reactions. Additionally, these PCR-based kits take hours, and in many cases days, to yield results and require logistically complicated shipping and handling of sensitive and infectious biological samples. In clinical trials, the test has demonstrated a better than 90% success rate as compared to Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. Ongoing trials will now seek to determine if the test can identify the specific stage of COVID-19 infection as well as its presence.

"Right from the beginning of the trials, we received statistically significant results in line with our simulations and PCR tests," said Prof. Sarusi, deputy head for research at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a faculty member of the Electro-Optical Engineering Unit at BGU. "We are continuing clinical trials and will compare samples from COVID-19 patients with samples from patients with other diseases to see if we can identify the different stages of the COVID-19 infection."

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Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU)

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