Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have developed an experimental COVID-19 test that uses nanoparticles to detect if coronavirus is present in saliva or a nasal swab sample, revealing the results in about 10 minutes through a change in the color of the test liquid, they report in the journal ACS Nano.
"Based on our preliminary results, we believe this promising new test may detect RNA material from the virus as early as the first day of infection," lead researcher Dipanjan Pan said in a statement, noting that additional studies are need to confirm the results. "Many of the diagnostic tests currently on the market cannot detect the virus until several days after infection. For this reason, they have a significant rate of false negative results." If RNA material specific to the new coronavirus is present in the sample, the gold nanoparticles turn the purple test reagent blue.
If the test lives up to its promise in clinical trials, it could be a relatively inexpensive and user-friendly way to monitor nursing homes, college campuses, child care centers, and offices for COVID-19 infections. "The innovative approach provides results without the need for a sophisticated laboratory facility," study co-author Matthew Frieman said in a statement. Pan has created a company to develop the test commercially and is applying for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.