UVic leads development of a real-time COVID-19 home test


- Vimala Jeevanandam

Alexandre Brolo. Photo: UVic Photo Services

A low-cost screening test that can be used from your home and read in minutes could change how public health officials track and control the spread of COVID-19.

Physical chemist Alexandre Brolo and ImmunoPrecise Antibodies are partnering to develop a test that detects the presence of the disease in saliva and can be read using a cell phone.

"Testing is an indispensable tool for public health officials in controlling the spread of COVID-19," says Brolo. "But in Canada, the wait for results can range from 24 hours to two weeks and require patients to visit a testing facility, risking further disease spread."

A real-time COVID-19 test could be used in public spaces where you need to be able to rapidly screen people. The simple platform and easy-to-obtain sample could be used by non-health professionals or as a home-testing kit.
Alexandre Brolo, UVic physical chemist

The sample is placed on a thin strip coated in nanostructures made of gold. These structures interact with COVID-19 specific targets such as the spiky proteins located on the surface of virus. If these proteins are present in the saliva of an infected patient, it will trigger a colour change on the strip that is detected in real-time with a cell phone application.

The test builds on technology previously developed and piloted by Brolo for the detection of the Zika virus, where his team verified the technology’s ability to detect proteins from both Zika and dengue fever using patient saliva samples. Brolo will now be customizing and testing the technology to use with COVID-19 antibody samples supplied by ImmunoPrecise, a Victoria-based company that specializes in custom antibody discovery and development.

"We will be working closely with ImmunoPrecise to find the best targets for detection," says Brolo. "It needs to be highly specific to COVID-19, consistently present in the saliva of patients and detectable by nanostructures."

The project is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Alliance COVID-19 grant, which promotes collaboration between academic researchers and industry to address pandemic-related research and technical challenges. Projects are funded for up to a year.


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Keywords: COVID, health, research, industry partnerships, award, viruses

People: Alexandre Brolo

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