Credit: Caltech

RapidPlex: Sensor that detects Covid-19 rapidly

CAPE TOWN – A new piece of technology called RapidPlex is able to detect Covid-19 in less than 10 minutes.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect the globe with a rising number of infections but what makes this virus particularly dangerous is how it’s capable of transmission while undetected with little to no signs or symptoms shown by the carriers,

As researchers and scientists continue to learn more about this novel virus and with an official vaccine yet to arrive, the world maintains a big focus on Covid-19 detection methods whether it is enhanced testing kits or exposure logging apps to help reduce the spread.

Recently Caltech, a world-renowned science and engineering institute, has unveiled a newly developed test kit that detects infection status, severity and immunity within 10 minutes using a low-cost sensor that analyses saliva or blood enabling at-home diagnosis without the need of a medical professional, even for those asymptomatic.

The research was conducted in the lab of Wei Gao, an assistant professor in the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of medical engineering, who had previously developed wireless sensors, with his team, able to monitor conditions such as gout and stress levels through small samples of specific compounds found in saliva, sweat and blood.

The new RapidPlex kits contain sensors made of graphene which is a sheet form of carbon with plastic etched sheet providing pores and increasing the sensitivity of the sensor to improve detection with high accuracy.

Credit: Caltech

“This is the only telemedicine platform I’ve seen that can give information about the infection in three types of data with a single sensor,” Gao says.

He explained that within minutes they are able to simultaneously check the levels, in order to get a full understanding of the infection, including early infection, immunity, and severity.

The test kits have only been tested on a small amount of blood and saliva samples obtained for medical research with the sensor showing high accuracy in the preliminary testing in those positive and negative of Covid-19, although Gao insists that larger-scaled testing is needed to determine the definitive accuracy of the test kits.

“Our ultimate aim really is home use. In the following year, we plan to mail them to high-risk individuals for at-home testing. And in the future, this platform could be modified for other types of infectious disease testing at home,” he says.

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