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October 1, 2021

Northwestern University researchers develop new testing method for Covid-19

The rapid swab test method uses a nanomechanical sensor platform and microcantilever technology.

Scientists at Northwestern University have developed an antigen-based Covid-19 testing method that offers highly accurate results in less than three minutes.

In a recent blind laboratory test, the new method showed 100% accurate results in five minutes or less than that from swab to signal.

Additionally, the high-sensitivity test is being developed as a swab test and a rapid exhaled breath detection test for Covid-19.

The rapid swab test method can identify the presence of multiple surface proteins on the virus by utilising a nanomechanical sensor platform and microcantilever technology.

It eliminates false-positive results and detects spike proteins prior to symptoms.

Northwestern University Materials Science and Engineering Abraham Harris professor Vinayak Dravid said: “We were excited to apply the technology because these are micro and nanosystems that don’t need a lot of viral material to make a difference.

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“Microcantilevers can give you a faster turnaround, within two or three minutes, because they leverage specific affinity surface binding. And unlike most sensors available that rely on just one protein, we can look at multiple targets at the same time.”

The tiny cantilevers, which are made using silicon, will bend if Covid-19 antibodies were present in the sample and indicate the presence of the virus.

Northwestern University materials science and engineering research professor Gajendra Shekhawat said: “We have some initial data to demonstrate the high sensitivity to other diseases in addition to Covid.

“We also are developing integrated microfluidics that will allow us to dip multiple cantilevers into antibody solutions and detect multiple viral loads at the same time.”

The research team also aims to expand the platform to make it capable of holding additional capabilities.

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