Researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai have developed a test to detect Covid-19 with results in 4 minutes and the accuracy of a PCR test. The clinical clinical trial published in Nature Biomedical Engineering notes that the scientists used microelectronics to analyze the genetic material from the nasal swabs.
The experts analyzed samples from 33 people who had Covid-19 and 54 people who were not infected with the virus. Two tests were applied to the two groups of volunteers, the one developed by researchers from Fudan University and PCR.
Based on the results of that clinical trial, rapid tests were a perfect match for PCR. In the first instance, the rapid test accurately detected all 33 cases of Covid-19 and did not give false negatives for any of the infected people.
For its part, the PCR tests, whose results take between 24 to 48, but are more precise, reaffirmed the results of the rapid test. Given this, Liqiang Wang, co-author of the study said: “PCR tests are usually time consuming, but they confirmed our results that we obtained from the volunteers in less than 4 minutes.”
A key tool to achieve results in 4 minutes was the electromechanical biosensor to detect SARS-CoV-2 integrated into a portable prototype which is capable of detecting the RNA of the virus. With this, the researchers, in addition to making the rapid test faster, gave it the precision of a PCR.
Also, the researchers explained that the biosensor performs analyzes so precise that it can approach the physical limit to detect proteins, nucleic acids and other background biomolecules. As a result of its high sensitivity to detect biomolecules, and its low manufacturing cost, it could be integrated into the next generation of rapid tests.
Rapid diagnostic tests have recently been developed for the detection of Covid-19, antigen tests are usually fast, but they do not have a precision similar to a PCR. Therefore, nucleic acid tests such as the one developed by researchers at Fudan University may be an alternative due to their high accuracy and speed.
“Once the prototype development is complete, the new rapid test could provide fast results in public places such as airports or health centers,” Wang said. For now, they are awaiting approval from health agencies, including the Drug Administration. and Food of the United States (FDA) to include it in rapid tests.
However, scientists could include the sensor for other uses beyond detecting SARS-Cov-2. The next step would be to detect ultra-precise diagnoses for other diseases in a few minutes, without the need for target purification, amplification or culturing that normally takes hours or days.