SEOUL -- South Korean researchers have developed an accurate biosensor that can detect a novel coronavirus including variant types in 30 minutes without the need for bulky lab equipment. The sensor can be used at COVID-19 screening centers for quick tests and to prevent the highly contagious disease from spreading.
Currently, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique is the most accurate and widely used to test COVID-19. However, such a test method requires personnel to carry samples to a lab where large equipment is located. The analysis takes at least a few hours to get results. While the PCR method has an average accuracy rate of about 97 percent, it is less accurate against delta and Omicron variants.
The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) said in a statement on January 25 that its research team has developed an on-site biosensor platform that can detect COVID-19 and variants in less than 30 minutes. Researchers would standardize the sensor for commercialization. "We hope this biosensor to contribute greatly to the establishment of disease prevention systems and social safety networks," KIST researcher Lee Kwan-Hyi was quoted as saying.
According to KIST, researchers have studied the mechanism of Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the main receptor used by the novel coronavirus for cellular entry, to give the portable biosensor to provide PCR-comparable sensitivity. Synthetic non-infectious coronaviruses that are identical to their originals and functioning were fabricated using microfluidics. The synthetic virus was used to optimize the sensitivity of the biosensor.
"The newly-developed synthetic virus can be used at places with low biosafety levels because it is non-infectious. It can also be used in other virus-detecting platforms," KIST researcher Kim Ho-jun said, adding the institute would upgrade the synthetic virus technology as well as the biosensor.
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