Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have developed an experimental diagnostic test for Covid-19 which can visually detect the presence of the virus within ten minutes.

The test uses an assay of plasmonic gold nanoparticles, which cause a colour change when the virus is present, and does not require the use of any advanced laboratory techniques. Instead, a nasal swab containing a test sample is mixed in a vial of purple liquid containing the nanoparticles.

The nanoparticles contain a molecule that binds to the RNA of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and turn a deep blue colour and precipitate to the bottom of the vial if it is present. If not, the solution retains its original purple colour.

UMSOM professor of diagnostic radiology Dipanjan Pan, who led the research, has now created a company called VirtuVian Bio to develop the test for commercial application. He plans to have a pre-submission with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the next month to discuss Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA).