New tech can offer rapid at-home COVID-19 test, UC researchers say

UC researchers create device that detects viruses in saliva

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have developed new technology that could pave the way for a rapid at-home test for COVID-19.

The technology concentrates samples of saliva, where respiratory viruses like the flu and COVID-19 are not as prevalent as they are in nasal passages. The device designed by UC is able to concentrate a saliva sample by 30 times with the potential for 100 or more, according to the university.

It’s fast, too, taking just minutes, the researchers say.

They’re calling it a potential game-changer in the country’s fight against the coronavirus, which until now has relied on a patchwork array of tests that take days to return, can only be performed by medical professionals and are generally expensive.

Amy Drexelius is a graduate student at UC and helped design the new point-of-care devices, which work similarly to a pregnancy test, where a pink line indicates a person is positive for the virus.

Drexelius says the device was developed with influenza in mind and that it has not been used to test for the coronavirus specifically. Still, she and her fellow researchers say it should be able to do just that.

“We’re really confident that it could work for coronavirus like influenza,” she said. “The coronavirus is an upper-respiratory infection. You can find a lot of the virus in your nasal-pharyngeal passages. That’s why they usually make a swab to get a sample. So, we’re confident that you can use similar methods to concentrate the coronavirus like you would with influenza. So this device would work for both of them.”

Drexelius says this is a major breakthrough.

”If you are waiting multiple days for a test result to come back, that means you’re going to have to quarantine yourself. You’re going to have to wait. You’re not going to be able to go to work. You’re going to have to wait until you get that test result back,” she explained.

“Having a quick, accurate home test is the goal.”

UC partnered with UES, Inc. and the Human Performance Wing of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The study was published in the journal Biomicrofluidics.

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