Coronavirus pandemic: Paper-based test that can detect infection within 30 minutes developed at MIT

The test awaits approval as the developer, Cambridge-based E25Bio, prepares to apply for “emergency use authorization,” which would temporarily allow them to use the device to test patients

                            Coronavirus pandemic: Paper-based test that can detect infection within 30 minutes developed at MIT
(Getty Images)

Suspected patients typically wait a day or more to get their COVID-19 test results. But a US-based startup has something better to offer: a paper-based test can detect the new coronavirus in just under 30 minutes.

The test, developed by the Cambridge-based E25Bio, has not been approved yet. The company is now preparing to apply for  “emergency use authorization,” which would temporarily allow them to use the device.

The test is based on a technology developed by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technolgy (MIT). Previously, the team has used this technology to detect proteins of viruses that cause Ebola, dengue fever, and Zika virus, among other infectious diseases.

Currently, doctors check for the virus by collecting throat swabs. In them, they look for the virus's DNA. Another method is to screen patients' blood for antibodies -- but it is only detected a few days after symptoms begin. 

“Our hope is that, similar to other tests that we’ve developed, this will be usable on the day that symptoms develop. We don’t have to wait for antibodies to the virus to come up,” Dr. Lee Gehrke, the Hermann L.F. von Helmholtz Professor at IMES said in a statement.

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How does it work?

The paper-based test can detect viral proteins from patient samples with help from antibodies designed in the lab. A paper strip is coated with an antibody that specifically latches on to a viral protein. The binding between the antibody and protein is similar to a lock and key.

The paper is then dipped into a solution containing a patient sample and a second antibody that is already attached to gold nanoparticles. The second antibody helps detect the virus better.

If the viral protein is present in the patient sample, it will attach to the antibodies on the paper strip and the nanoparticle-bound antibodies. Once this binding occurs, a colored spot will appear on the paper within 20 minutes --indicating a positive result.

British firm claims their device can detect COVID-19 in 10 minutes

Meanwhile, one British company named SureScreen Diagnostics, claims that their device can detect the virus in 10 minutes with a 98% accuracy. Their claims have, however, stirred some controversy, with many casting doubts on its accuracy.

According to the company, their tests are being used in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Turkey, UAE, Kuwait, and Oman. The tests cost just $1.

Public Health England (PHE) had earlier asked people to not use these tests due to a paucity of information on accuracy. But, according to the MailOnline, PHE will evaluate several commercial products for their accuracy.

"Nevertheless, by conducting these evaluations in the emergency of the COVID-19 outbreak, the information that we will generate may help to inform the choices being made by those NHS laboratories that wish to introduce commercial diagnostic tests for the virus," a spokesperson of PHE told MailOnline.

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.