Monday, February 08, 2021

New Simple and Inexpensive 15-Minute Sample-to-Answer COVID-19 Test based on a Flu Chip

A simple, 15-minute sample-to-answer antibody test that costs less than USD 2 and is used with a desktop detection system could make COVID-19 testing more fast, cheap, and accessible.

The cost efficient COVID-19 antibody test developed by researchers from the Holonyak Micro & Nanotechnology Lab at The Grainger College of Engineering University of Illinois (Urbana, IL, USA) is based on a “flu chip” that was being developed before the pandemic to rapidly determine the most likely cause of a fever by measuring several proteins within a droplet of blood.

Serological (detected by blood sample) antibody testing is an important diagnostic tool for combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies have shown that measurement of SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies may be helpful for the diagnosis of suspected patients with negative RT-PCR results and for the identification of asymptomatic infections – a cause for concern as vaccinations may lessen or eliminate symptoms as well as prevent infection. Quantitative measurement of COVID-19 antibody titer is also vital for blood transfusion therapy, which has shown promising results for treating patients with severe symptoms.

The new highly sensitive, fast, and low-cost test demonstrates great potential for wide applications in diverse working environments. COVID antibody testing could become routine and simple as a variety of vaccines are deployed whose long-term protection is not yet fully known. The test is simple enough to be performed at schools, health clinics, pharmacies, and parts of the world where diagnostic laboratories are not available.

“Compared with other detection methods, our method is a simple, 15-minute sample-to-answer test,” said Bin Zhao, a postdoctoral research associate and IGB Fellow. “It costs less than USD 2 per test and is used with a desktop detection system that is suitable for point-of-care situations like clinics and physician offices.”

“Our developed method is not only rapid and simple, but also highly sensitive and quantitative. It also requires only a fingerstick quantity of blood (~ 4 ┬ÁL),” added Nantao Li, an ECE and Holonyak Lab graduate student. “The method that we used to detect COVID-19 antibody can also be adapted to detect other molecules, such as antibodies to other viral pathogens, biomarkers for cardiac disease, and biomarkers for cancer.”

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