Coronavirus: Test using gold nanoparticles to find COVID-19 gets $1.24 million grant

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Researchers at UK-based company for diagnostic technologies Mologic Ltd are validating a test which uses gold nanoparticles to detect coronavirus even in asymptomatic cases, after receiving a million-pound grant from the UK government to help speed research and reach the country’s target of testing 25,000 people per day.

The antibody tests use gold nanoparticles in the test strip that detect COVID-19 biomarkers, Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and Immunoglobulin M (IgM), which are released on interaction with antibodies embedded in the strip. As a sample – blood, serum or plasma – moves along the strip, the biomarkers come into contact with the antibodies and illicit a color change, visible in a test line, in much the same way as you would see in a pregnancy test.

Read more: Is there a test to know if you have already had coronavirus?

Immunoglobulins are antibodies themselves and are part of the immune system. When a person gets an infection, such as COVID-19, immunoglobulins are produced, which attach to the virus and activate the rest of the immune system to attack and clear the virus.

IgM is the first immunoglobulin to be produced and is a general antibody that can bind to many different types of pathogen. The presence of IgM is an indicator of early infection. IgG is a more specialized antibody that specifically binds to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The presence of IgG is an indicator of later stage infection (usually 7 days or longer after infection).

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The company says its kit will “allow health officials to test for the virus at home or in the community, providing results in 10 minutes, without the need for special training, electricity or a laboratory.”

The test is capable of detecting COVID-19 infection in cases where the patients may be asymptomatic or where currently used PCR tests may give false-negative results.

Read more: False positives undermine coronavirus antibody tests: Experts

The company added that after rapid assessments in the UK, the technology will be shipped to global validation partners including the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal, La Jolla Institute for Immunology in the United States, the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, the University of Malaya in Malaysia, the Institute for Health Science Research Germans Trias I Pujol (IGTP) in Spain, and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Brazil.

Professor Paul Davis, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Mologic said: “Once ready, this test will enable affordable, more accurate and earlier diagnosis of infection, limiting the spread of the disease.”

The company is working in close partnership with the Institute Pasteur de Dakar to validate the COVID-19 test and manufacture at diaTROPiX, a new facility in Senegal.

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