A group of researchers at the University of Maryland claim that they have developed a diagnostic test that can detect the COVID-19 causing virus within 10 minutes and the results will be visible with naked eyes.
The authors have already published their research in the peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, ACS Nano.
According to the study, early and quick detection of COVID-19 is said to be crucial to contain the spread of the disease. However, most tests either require sophisticated machinery and take some time before giving the results. Also, a majority of tests fail to give reliable results when the viral load is low.
In a press release, Dr Dipanjan Pan, the lead author of the study and professor of diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine and paediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that the test can probably detect viral RNA on day 1 of the infection. However, more studies would be needed to confirm this.
The test is a simple colourimetry-based assay that uses gold-nanoparticles (AuNPs) capped with the nucleic acid sequence of the nucleocapsid phosphoprotein of the SARS-COV-2 virus.
To conduct the test, the nasal or oral swab from a patient is taken and viral RNA is isolated from it. This process takes about 10 minutes. Once the RNA is isolated, the capped gold nanoparticle is used to detect the protein. The particle goes and binds to the target protein and as a result, forms masses (agglomerate). This leads to a colour change in the solution from purple to blue.
When an enzyme called RNase H is added to the solution then, it separates the viral RNA from DNA, which then precipitates at the bottom of the tube due to the mass agglomeration.
Dr Pan stated in the press release that he is going to have a meeting with the US FDA soon to get emergency use authorization (EUA) for the test. This will allow them to market the product without having to go through the various stages of clearance as long as the test meets the FDA’s efficiency and reliability criteria needed for the EUA.
He further added that the test wouldn’t be very expensive and be made available at various daycare centres, nursing homes and other facilities to test for COVID-19.
For more information, read our article on What are ‘point of care’ tests?
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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2020 18:46:30 IST