Researchers from the University of Utah are developing a sensor for detecting viruses, especially COVID-19, once it touches a surface. What was originally designed as a prototype to detect the Zika virus, is now being reworked so it can detect coronavirus, potentially doing so within 60 seconds.
The University of Utah project received a $200,000 National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant to further fund its progress. “We started this project about 12 months ago,” said Massood Tabib-Azar, a professor at the University of Utah, “The main idea was to enable people to have their own personal sensor to detect Zika in places that they travel. The plan is to program it to identify COVID-19 instead,” He adds, “If someone breathes, coughs, sneezes, or blows on the sensor, it would be able to tell if they have COVID-19”.
To make this work, DNA strands in the virus from a swab test applied on the sensor creates an electrical resistance, which would then trigger a positive result in the app. But for those who are worried that it means the phone is ‘infected’, the virus sample can be destroyed by electrocuting it on the sensor.
Tabib-Azir says that the sensor could be available within three months, since the prototype to detect Zika virus was already created in 2019.