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New COVID-19 test made from gold

Healthsource WJRT
Healthsource WJRT(WJRT)
Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 7:49 AM EDT
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More than 33,000 Americans have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, but it can still take anywhere from several days to a week before results are available. Researchers have now developed a test where the results are ready within minutes and one of the key materials scientists are using may be worth its weight in gold.

In the ever-changing environment surrounding COVID-19, can you trust the test you’re taking is giving you the right results?

Dipanjan Pan, PhD, professor of diagnostic radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine explained to Ivanhoe, “Most of the times these tests are not really accurate and cannot detect virus at very early stage.”

Many current tests can’t detect the virus until several days after infection, meaning the result could be a false negative. In fact, early studies show false negatives could be as high as 30 percent. Pan and his colleagues have developed an experimental rapid diagnostic test containing plasmonic gold nanoparticles.

Pan shared, “Why are we interested in gold? Gold is unique.”

Pan says that’s because gold can reflect light. Here’s how it works: the test requires a nasal or saliva swab, then the sample is combined with a liquid mixed with gold nanoparticles. Those particles are attached to a molecule that can detect if a protein in the COVID-19 virus is present.

“They come close to each other. It’s like a rush of gold coming together. The color changes from purple to blue and that is immediately being detected by the naked eye,” illustrated Pan.

Blue means the virus is present. Results would be visible in ten minutes, without needing a special lab or equipment to run the test.

Pan and his team are planning to meet with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the next month to discuss getting an emergency use authorization for the test, meaning the usual clearance process would be waived. The team does need to demonstrate to the FDA that their method produces reliable results. So far, the scientists say early results have been very promising.

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