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Glucose Monitor for Measuring Blood Sugar Levels Reconfigured for Use as SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Detector

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 14 Oct 2020
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A trio of scientists - a pharmacologist, a biomedical engineer, and a biophysicist - at the Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD, USA) has developed a system for using everyday glucose monitors to detect COVID-19 antibodies.

The scientists are pooling their knowledge to design a device that can detect whether a person has antibodies linked to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. To develop an antibody detector that can be deployed rapidly and inexpensively across the globe, the researchers were inspired by a test that is already used by millions of people: a glucose monitor. People with diabetes use glucose monitors to measure their blood sugar levels by taking a tiny prick of blood from their finger and placing it on a paper test strip that is inserted into the monitor. This same type of tool could be reconfigured to detect glucose in a series of chemical reactions that occur when antibodies are detected in the blood, according to the researchers.

First, the researchers developed a test strip that contains the "spike" protein from the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They add a drop of blood from a patient, and the spike proteins on the test strip bind with COVID-19-related antibodies present in the blood. Then, the researchers dip the strip into a tube with an enzyme that binds to the COVID-19 antibodies. After washing off the excess enzyme, the scientists insert the strip into a solution containing a molecule that is transformed by the enzyme into glucose. Finally, a commercial glucose monitor reads the amount of glucose present on the test strip, which is a surrogate for COVID-19 antibodies present in the patient's blood sample. The researchers are continuing to refine and test the patent-pending technology.

"Learning from the present and planning for the future, we are pursuing the development of a biosensing platform that will hopefully helps us better monitor infection spread for the current and future national epidemics," said Netz Arroyo, assistant professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences, who is leading the study.

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