A team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are working on a sensor that can easily differentiate between regular seasonal flu and the much more deadly COVID-19 and simultaneously test for both, Phys.org reports.
The dual test under development saves patients time by not requiring multiple tests to get a diagnosis. It also makes things easier for doctors and other front-line medical workers, requiring them to conduct fewer tests, as well as reduce the use of nasal swabs.
The sensor device the team is developing is about the size of a USB thumb drive. It’s infused with COVID-19 and influenza antibodies, with one side of the device sensitive to each virus. The test would be conducted using saliva samples.
“With a second wave of the coronavirus likely to appear right as we get into flu season, there’s an urgent need for diagnostics that can differentiate between COVID-19 and influenza,” said Professor Deji Akinwande, of Cockrell School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The team is using graphene as the basis of the device’s sensing element. Graphene’s atomic thickness makes it highly sensitive to any charge, including viruses, which makes it an optimal substance for biosensor technology.
Once the prototype is tested, the team will look for a production partner to scale up its operation.