Summary: Researchers have developed a new biosensor that can detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID-19, from nasopharyngeal swabs in under one minute.
Source: American Chemical Society
According to many experts, early diagnosis and management is critical for slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Therefore, the race is on to develop diagnostic tests for the virus that are faster, easier and more accurate than existing ones. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Nano have developed a field-effect transistor-based biosensor that detects SARS-CoV-2 in nasopharyngeal swabs from patients with COVID-19, in less than one minute.
Currently, most diagnostic tests for COVID-19 rely on a technique called real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which amplifies SARS-CoV-2 RNA from patient swabs so that tiny amounts of the virus can be detected. However, the method takes at least 3 hours, including a step to prepare the viral RNA for analysis. Edmond Changkyun Park, Seung Il Kim and colleagues wanted to develop a faster diagnostic test that could analyze patient samples directly from a tube of buffer containing the swabs, without any sample preparation steps.
The team based their test on a field-effect transistor — a sheet of graphene with high electronic conductivity. The researchers attached antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the graphene. When they added either purified spike protein or cultured SARS-CoV-2 virus to the sensor, binding to the antibody caused a change in the electrical current. Next, the team tested the technique on nasopharyngeal swabs collected from patients with COVID-19 or healthy controls. Without any sample preparation, the sensor could discriminate between samples from sick and healthy patients. The new test was about 2-4 times less sensitive than RT-PCR, but different materials could be explored to improve the signal-to-noise ratio, the researchers say.
Funding: The authors acknowledge funding from the National Research Council of Science and Technology funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT, Korea and the Korea Health Technology R&D Project through the Korea Health Industry Development Institute funded by the Ministry of Health & Welfare, Korea.
About this COVID-19 research article
Source: American Chemical Society Media Contacts: Katie Cottingham – American Chemical Society Image Source: The image is credited to ACS Nano 2020, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.0c02823.
Rapid Detection of COVID-19 Causative Virus (SARS-CoV-2) in Human Nasopharyngeal Swab Specimens Using Field-Effect Transistor-Based Biosensor
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a newly emerging human infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, previously called 2019-nCoV). Based on the rapid increase in the rate of human infection, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. Because no specific drugs or vaccines for COVID-19 are yet available, early diagnosis and management are crucial for containing the outbreak. Here, we report a field-effect transistor (FET)-based biosensing device for detecting SARS-CoV-2 in clinical samples. The sensor was produced by coating graphene sheets of the FET with a specific antibody against SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The performance of the sensor was determined using antigen protein, cultured virus, and nasopharyngeal swab specimens from COVID-19 patients. Our FET device could detect the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein at concentrations of 1 fg/mL in phosphate-buffered saline and 100 fg/mL clinical transport medium. In addition, the FET sensor successfully detected SARS-CoV-2 in culture medium (limit of detection [LOD]: 1.6 × 101 pfu/mL) and clinical samples (LOD: 2.42 × 102 copies/mL). Thus, we have successfully fabricated a promising FET biosensor for SARS-CoV-2; our device is a highly sensitive immunological diagnostic method for COVID-19 that requires no sample pretreatment or labeling.