Another COVID cluster has broken out in Melbourne, and as a result, the entire state has gone into a “circuit breaker” lockdown for the next seven days. Yesterday, May 27, saw 47,462 people get tested for coronavirus, according to the latest figures from the state’s department of health.
However, results from the current method of testing — nasal and throat swabs — typically take between 24-72 hours to return results; 24 hours is the most common.
However, now new research has achieved a proof of concept for a new, fast and portable saliva screening test — that could take only five minutes to see results. How? Through the use of infrared light technology that confirms infection with SARS-CoV-2.
Published today in the journal Angewandte Chemie and led by Monash University and the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, this new diagnostic approach involves a portable instrument and a subject’s saliva.
In fact, the team, which consists of Professor Bayden Wood, Dr Phil Heraud, Professors Dale Godfrey and Damian Purcell, identifies a signature of the infection agent in the infrared spectra of saliva from 27 out of 29 people infected with COVID, who presented at The Royal Melbourne Hospital with symptoms of coronavirus.
In a press release released this morning, Professor Wood said this type of technology has many significant advantages, the most significant being “the speed and ease with which the test can be performed” as well as “its affordability and the reduced risk to both patients and healthcare workers.”
Calling this preliminary research very encouraging, the scientists behind this are keen to see further testing, which consists of a larger patient cohort, to better understand the specificity of this approach.
Modification was implemented on a portable infrared spectrometer, meaning there is high throughput screening. This then enables the samples to be rapidly scanned in a contactless mode, without the instrument having to be cleaned without measurements. Each instrument could screen 5,000 samples per day, Professor Wood estimates.
“The approach has significant advantages over the standard Real Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) that is the current gold standard for detection,” Professor Godfrey said.
“As we know, this requires that samples are sent to a dedicated laboratory and results take a day or more”.
The proposed new test can also avoid the discomfort many people face with the current swabbing method of testing, as people could contribute the sample “by simply dribbling into a sterile container,” commented Professor Purcell.
“The result can be derived in less than five minutes and a rapid result minimises the delay in determining if quarantine is required, therefore minimising the risk of further spread of infection.”
Just imagine if they combined forces with the dogs who can sniff out COVID…