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New sensor can tell if you have Covid-19 or the flu – and do it in under 10 seconds -Health

Dmitri Kiriv / SWNS

Have a cough, sore throat and congestion? Any number of respiratory viruses can be responsible. Conventional tests rely on chemical reactions to identify culprits—but researchers now want to swap chemistry tests for electrical changes sensed by nanomaterials.

They report using a single-atom-dense nanomaterial to create a device that can simultaneously detect the presence of COVID-19 and the flu — at much lower levels and much faster than conventional tests for both.

Symptoms of both the flu and COVID-19 overlap substantially, making it difficult to distinguish between them, notes Deji Akinwande, PhD, who presented the work at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society.

“When both of these viruses are spreading together like earlier this winter, it would be very useful to have a sensor that can simultaneously detect whether you have Covid, the flu, none of the above, or both,” said Akinwande, of the University of Texas at Austin.

The device can be modified to test for other infections and for other applications as well.

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Dmitri Kiriv, Ph.D. Co’s group built the sensor using graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice pattern. Its extreme thinness makes graphene highly sensitive to any electrical changes in the environment.

“These ultra-thin nanomaterials typically record the best sensitivity, even down to the detection of single atoms, and they can improve the ability to detect very small quantities that need to be sensed, whether it’s bacteria or viruses. Gas or blood,” Akinwande A press release said.

To create the infection sensor, the researchers had to make graphene react to the presence of viral proteins. To do this, they look to the immune system, which produces antibodies that are fine-tuned to recognize and block specific pathogens. The researchers attached antibodies – from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the flu virus – to graphene. When a sample of an infected person is placed on the sensor, these antibodies bind to their target proteins, inducing a change in electrical current.

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The researchers did not have the necessary safety precautions to use whole, active flu or SARS-CoV-2 viruses to test the roughly square-inch sensor. For replacement, they used proteins from these viruses distributed in saliva-like fluids.

Their results indicated that the sensor could not only detect the presence of proteins, but also when they were present in extremely low amounts. This sensitivity suggests to Akinwande that the sensor could be used to detect much rarer viral particles found in breath.

The sensor worked quickly, returning results within about 10 seconds of dropping a sample. In comparison, conventional COVID-19 tests can take several hours depending on the type, and a dual COVID-19 test recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration takes 30 minutes to return results.

Akinwande and his group are working to improve its performance by expanding the slate of viruses it can detect.

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There’s no word on when it will be available to airports and health care providers, but with funding from the National Science Foundation, they’re developing a sensor designed to test for SARS-CoV-2 variants—like Omicron and Delta—and future viruses. the strain

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