A team of Korean researchers have developed a method of detecting SARS-CoV-2, the virus strain that causes COVID-19, using a graphene-based field-effect transistor-based biosensor.
Current testing methods for the virus rely on a technique called real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which amplifies SARS-CoV-2 RNA swabbed from patients so even tiny amounts of the virus can be detected, according to Phys.org. The problem with the current method is that it’s time-consuming, taking as long as 3 hours to get results. The Korean researchers set out to create a test that provides those results much faster.
The researchers’ method involved infusing an electrified sheet of graphene with antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. When the team added purified spike protein or cultured SARS-CoV-2 virus, it caused a change in the electrical current when binding to the antibody.
They also tested the technique using nasal swabs from COVID-19 patients as well as healthy control subjects not infected with the virus. The team’s sensor was able to distinguish between healthy samples and infected ones without any preparation of the sample. The new test is not quite as sensitive, about 2-4 times less than RT-PCR, but it’s hoped that other materials could be researched that might bring its sensitivity more in line with existing tests.