Tech Transfer eNews Blog

UCF researchers develop rapid virus test with PCR-like accuracy

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: December 1st, 2021

University of Central Florida researchers have developed a device that detects viruses – including COVID-19 — as fast as but more accurately than current antigen-based rapid detection tests.

The optical sensor the researchers developed uses nanotechnology to accurately identify viruses in seconds from blood samples. They say the device can tell with 95% percent accuracy if someone has a virus, a significant improvement over the rapid tests now available.

The researchers tested the device using samples of Dengue virus, but the technology can easily be adapted to detect other viruses, such as COVID-19, according to Debashis Chanda, a professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center.

“The sensitive optical sensor, along with the rapid fabrication approach used in this work, promises the translation of this promising technology to any virus detection including COVID-19 and its mutations with a high degree of specificity and accuracy,” Chanda says. “We demonstrated a credible technique which combines PCR-like genetic coding and optics on a chip for accurate virus detection directly from blood.”

The device essentially matches the accuracy of the gold-standard PCR-based tests but with nearly instantaneous results. It works by using nano-scale patterns of gold that reflect back the signature of the virus it is set to detect in a sample of blood. Different viruses can be detected by using different DNA sequences that selectively target specific viruses. Importantly, it detects viruses directly from blood samples without the need for sample preparation or purification, thus speeding up the test and improving its accuracy.

The research team confirmed the device’s effectiveness with multiple tests that used different virus concentration levels and solution environments, including those with the presence of nontarget virus biomarkers.

Abraham Vazquez-Guardado, the study’s lead author and a postdoc at Northwestern University who worked on the research as a doctoral student in Chanda’s lab, says he’s excited about the potential.

“Although there have been previous optical biosensing demonstration in human serum, they still require off-line complex and dedicated sample preparation performed by skilled personnel — a commodity not available in typical point of care applications,” Vazquez-Guardado says. “This work demonstrated for the first time an integrated device which separated plasma from the blood and detects the target virus without any pre-processing with potential for near future practical usages.”

Source: UCF News

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