Peking University team say their patented sensing chip is as accurate as the standard PCR testing, based on initial study results. They say the technology is ready for immediate use, but some think there could be challenges for mass production.
Chinese researchers have developed a biological sensor they say can detect the new coronavirus in 10 minutes from a throat swab, based on initial study results.
The sensing chip developed by a Peking University team fits a portable, laptop-sized device, and the scientists said it detected the Sars-CoV-2 viral gene almost instantly during their testing.
A year after the coronavirus was first identified, it can take hours or days to get a result from the standard PCR – or polymerase chain reaction – test after a swab is taken because of the time-consuming process required to analyse samples in a laboratory. PCR tests amplify the genes of the virus with chemical agents so they can be seen under fluorescent light.
According to the team, their device was as accurate as PCR testing in the study – and much faster.
Their peer-reviewed paper on the technology, published in the journal Science China Materials last week, said the chip could be used in almost any point-of-care facility and could save time and money, especially for travellers who need to show a negative test result before they can board a plane.
Team leader Guo Xuefeng, a professor of chemical engineering at the university, said in the paper the technology was “ready for immediate application”.
On-the-spot virus detection has been high on public health wish lists for decades. Scientists have proposed numerous solutions to the technical hurdles, but “they never made it out of the lab because there was no demand”, said a Beijing-based government epidemiologist who was not involved in the study and declined to be named.