UF Health researchers help develop highly accurate, 30-second coronavirus test – Gainesville Sun

UF Health researchers help develop highly accurate, 30-second coronavirus test – Gainesville Sun

The most accurate COVID-19 test often takes 24 hours or longer to return results from a lab. At-home test kits offer results in minutes but are far less accurate.
UF Health researchers, however, have helped to develop a device that provides a highly accurate, 30-second coronavirus test.
The motherboard of a COVID-19 rapid testing device that UF Health researchers helped develop can return a coronavirus test result as accurately and sensitively as the gold standard of testing, a PCR test, in 30 seconds. UF Health researchers are working with scientists at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan.
The device, researchers said, could transform public health officials’ ability to quickly detect and respond to the coronavirus — or the next pandemic. And, UF has entered into a licensing agreement with a New Jersey company, Houndstoothe Analytics, in hopes of ultimately manufacturing and selling the device, not just to medical professionals but also to consumers, according to a news release from UF Health Communications.
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Like the PCR test, the device is 90% accurate, researchers said.  
“There is nothing available like it,” said Josephine Esquivel-Upshaw, a professor in the UF College of Dentistry’s department of restorative dental sciences and member of the research team that developed the device. “It’s true point of care. It’s access to care. We think it will revolutionize diagnostics.”
The device is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. First, researchers said, they have to ensure that test results are not thrown off by cross-contamination with other pathogens that might be found in the mouth and saliva such as other coronaviruses, staph infections, the flu, pneumonia and 20 other pathogens.
The hand-held apparatus is powered by a 9-volt battery and uses an inexpensive test strip, similar to those used in blood glucose meters, with coronavirus antibodies attached to a gold-plated film at its tip. The strip is placed on the tongue to collect a tiny saliva sample. The strip is then inserted into a reader connected to a circuit board with the brains of the device.
The research team also is studying its ability to detect specific proteins that could be used to diagnose other illnesses, including cancer, a heart attack and immune health. 
Fan Ren, Ph.D., a distinguished professor in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering’s department of chemical engineering, and his team had been developing semiconductor-based sensor devices long before COVID-19 for non-medical purposes.
Ren came up with the idea of separating transistor from sample, like blood glucose meters that use test strips to collect a drop of blood after a lancet pierces a finger. This innovation, Ren said, makes the UF device unique, affordable and easy to use. And, it can be used  for venues with large crowds, such as concerts, sporting events, classrooms, in addition to medical settings. Researchers say the unit also would provide access to accurate, inexpensive testing in rural areas or in developing nations.
“Whether you are infected or not infected,  you get the answer right away,” Ren said.

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