A new form of COVID-19 test has been developed by scientists that integrate multiple types of data using a low-cost detector to test tiny quantities of saliva or blood in less than ten minutes, an advance that may allow the novel coronavirus infection to be diagnosed at home. Wireless sensors made of graphene, a sheet-like type of carbon, were previously created by researchers, including those from the California Institute of Technology ( Caltech) in the US, which can track conditions such as gout by detecting low concentrations of active substances in the blood, saliva, or sweat.
A plastic sheet etched with a laser generates a 3D graphene structure in these sensors, with tiny pores that are sensitive enough to detect compounds that are only present in smaller amounts with high precision. As per the study, the structures of graphene are coupled with antibodies, molecules of the immune system that are susceptible to particular proteins such as those on the surface of the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The latest version of the SARS-CoV-2 RapidPlex sensor includes antibodies and proteins that detect the existence of the novel coronavirus itself, antibodies that the body produces to combat the pathogen, and chemical inflammation markers that show the magnitude of the infection with COVID-19. This is the only telemedicine platform that can provide infection information with a single sensor for three types of data.
We can simultaneously check these levels in as little as a couple of minutes, so we get a complete picture of the infection, including early infection, tolerance, and severity.
The researchers said they have so far only tested the system in the laboratory with blood and saliva samples collected from individuals who have tested positive or negative for COVID-19 for medical research purposes. While preliminary findings suggest that the sensor is highly accurate, the researchers believe that to confidently evaluate its accuracy, a larger-scale test must be conducted with real-world patients rather than laboratory samples.
They expect to monitor and start testing sensors in hospitalized COVID-19 patients for the duration of normal use and to estimate the suitability of the tests for in-home use. Home use is actually their primary objective. They intend to send them to high-risk individuals for at-home testing in the following year. And this platform may be adapted for other forms of infectious disease testing at home in the future.