Researchers from the Universitat Politčcnica de Valčncia (UPV) have developed a new system at laboratory scale that allows a rapid, cheap and effective detection of COVID-19. The system consists of a biosensor based on DVD technologies, that detects specific antibodies (G, M and A) and SARS-CoV-2 antigens –differentiating them to those of influenza– in a safe way, in less than 30 minutes, by analysing serum or saliva samples. The price of the test is estimated at less than two euros.
"It consists of a semi-automatic system, made up of a microfluidic disc and a reader based on DVD technology, which performs microarray format tests with high sensitivity and selectivity," says Ángel Maquieira, professor of the Department of Chemistry and Director of the Institute of Molecular Recognition and Technological Development (IDM) at the UPV.
Called COMBO-SARS-CoV-2, the system can analyse up to a total of six serum and saliva samples simultaneously, determining type G, M and A antibodies and virus-specific antigens in less than half an hour. "It also includes a software for the acquisition, presentation and management of results," points out Sergi Morais, Professor in the Department of Chemistry and researcher at the IDM.
The IDM researchers have assessed the analytical performance of the biosensor system in a double-blind trial, in collaboration with the Microbiology and Parasitology Service of the Clinical Hospital of Valčncia, led by Dr. David Navarro, and the Integrated Occupational Health and Prevention Service of the Universitat Politčcnica de Valčncia.
According to Ángel Maquieira, "the results are obtaining very valuable information to identify asymptomatic positive individuals, differentiating them both from non-infected individuals, with a high degree of sensitivity and selectivity, and from those with other infections such as seasonal flu".
When a patient tests positive, the serological and/or saliva sample generates an optical signal that allows the identification of individuals who have suffered or are suffering the infection and establishes the concentration of the specific biomarkers.
“The developed system will allow a rapid and automated viral diagnosis, at a much lower cost than the kits currently in use. Furthermore, these biosensors will enable a practical and efficient monitoring of the level of neutralising antibodies once the vaccine is ready”, highlights Sergi Morais.
On the other hand, given the high performance of the technology, the IDM team of the Universitat Politčcnica de Valčncia highlights that the number of health scenarios that can benefit is very wide, from primary care services and emergencies to intensive care units, among others.
“The device is very competitive in terms of price Since the disc player has a manufacturing price of € 350. The discs are produced on a pilot scale by a Valencian company at a very affordable cost. Furthermore, its manufacture can be scaled up for mass production by specialised companies with which we have already worked on other projects”, concludes Ángel Maquieira.
The UPV team of researchers also highlights that COMBO-SARS-CoV-2 "goes beyond the COVID19 pandemic, since it can and may be applied to detect other agents with infective capacity such as influenza viruses, adenoviruses and respiratory syncytial virus, which is the main cause of bronchiolitis in children under two years of age” adds Sergi Morais.
The development of the COMBO-SARS-CoV-2 system has been financed by the Department of Innovation, Universities, Science and Digital Society of the Valencian Government, within the framework of the call launched last March to the agents of the Innovation System of the Valencian Community to develop innovative solutions in the fight against coronavirus