New York: Rapid testing is the norm for containing the novel
coronavirus spread. However, the traditional Covid-19 testing involves mild invasive
swab collection and the wait for results will be upto a week. What if a
potable saliva test could detect the Covid-19 in 60 seconds?
A researcher from the University of Utah, US, is developing a
portable, reusable sensor for Covid-19 test that involves just a drop of saliva
and the result produced in a minute. The technology, developed by Dr Massood Tabib-Azar,
Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor, was profiled in two research
papers published in the IEEE Sensors Journal.
The sensor, about the size of a quarter, can be mounted even
on a cellphone and the technology is the advancement of the prototype that Dr Tabib-Azar
originally worked on a year ago to detect Zika virus.
“It can be made to be a standalone device, but can also be
connected to a cellphone. Once you have it connected either wirelessly or
directly, you can use the cellphone software and processor to give a warning if
you have the virus,” he was quoted as saying in the University portal.
The sensor uses single-strand DNA called aptamers that will attach
to the proteins in the Covid-19 virus molecule if present. To test for the virus
presence, the user will have to place a drop of saliva on the sensor, and the
results will appear on the phone.
If the virus is present, the DNA strands in the sensor will bind
to the virus’ proteins and an electrical resistance is measured in the device,
signaling a positive result. The sensor includes an array of tiny devices
inside it, each with a DNA strand that looks for a different protein. A
specific combination of proteins will be unique to just Covid-19, he claimed.
“By increasing the number of devices and single-strand DNA,
we can increase the sensor’s accuracy and reduce the false positives and false
negatives,” Dr Tabib-Azar added.
The sensor is designed to be reusable because it can destroy the previous sample on it by producing a small electrical current that could heat up and remove or disintegrate the virus.