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Swab-Based Rapid Test Uses UV Spectrometer to Detect All COVID-19 Variants

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 08 Apr 2022
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Image: Faster, cheaper COVID tests could improve diagnostic testing (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)
Image: Faster, cheaper COVID tests could improve diagnostic testing (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

A new swab-based rapid test uses a UV spectrometer for detection of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and will cover all COVID-19 variants, as well as any future variants.

In August 2020, a nanotechnology research group at the University of Georgia (Athens, GA, USA) had tested nanotechnology-based optical sensors designed for COVID-19 detection and saw the potential for their home-grown technology. The group has now filed a patent application and published its first paper on rapid detection of COVID-19, using a localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) virus sensor, developed based on human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 protein (ACE2) functionalized silver nanotriangle arrays. The sensor has high sensitivity and specificity to the spike protein RBD of SARS-CoV-2 as well as human coronavirus NL63. The team is now developing a detector based on this work within USD 10 and the sensor will link to a smartphone app.

“Right now, we already have rapid antigen test kits available on the market, though the big issue continues to be the high rate of false positives, around 60%,” said Yanjun Yang, doctoral student in the UGA College of Engineering and lead author on the new paper. “Our technology, also in a rapid kit but using a spectrometer to do the detection, is much more accurate.”

“The method we developed shall have a much better sensing performance than the rapid test kits, very close to the PCR tests currently in use,” said Yiping Zhao, Distinguished Research Professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of physics and astronomy. “The setup and the operation of the sensor is very simple, and the test time essentially will be less than 10 minutes.”

“The LSPR sensor has several advantages in rapid diagnostics of SARS-CoV-2 (CoV2). Highly sensitive, specific, and able to detect CoV2 at picomolar concentrations in saliva, it’s rapidity at less than 20 minutes is as good or better than current diagnostic platforms including RT-qPCR, also known as the ‘gold standard’,” said Ralph Tripp, professor and GRA Chair in Vaccine and Therapeutic Development in the College of Veterinary Medicine department of infectious diseases and co-author on the study. “In addition, this method of detection is highly reproducible. This platform is a significant leap forward in diagnostics.”

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