A new quick testing method for COVID-19 has been developed by scientists at New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi. It is an adhesive bandage that depends on gold nanoparticles to rapidly detect the immune antibodies present in the bloodstream.
These antibodies, called IgM and IgG, are naturally produced due to SARS-CoV-2 infection and hence act as useful biomarkers to determine the infected individuals and track the spread of pandemics.
The groundbreaking bandage technology is user-friendly and inexpensive and could be altered in a short period to detect other pathogenic infections in future pandemics by utilizing antigens particular to the rising pathogens.
It is possible to utilize the test at home by applying the unique adhesive bandage to a pinprick fingertip, just like how a regular bandage is used to cover and safeguard wounds. It functions with nanotechnology-based engineered tiny particles, known as gold nanoparticles, that are one billionth of a meter in diameter and consist of specific keys, referred to as antigens, bounded to them that are special to the SARS-CoV-2.
With the help of nanotechnology methods, these keys have been used to identify and bind to IgM and IgG antibodies with high sensitivity and specificity, paralleled with key-lock mechanisms. When this takes place, a color change denotes the individual’s infection status—not infected or infected with early immune, active immune, or immune responses—in just minutes.
The bandage is available at an affordable price and is disposable, thus holding promise for large-scale detection and screening. This can be done at public facilities, homes, and in rural regions that have restricted access to high-end testing facilities.
The NYU Abu Dhabi research group, headed by Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering Mohammad Qasaimeh, described the process of making this new testing technology in a study reported in the Microsystems and Nanoengineering journal.
This user-friendly test quickly and accurately identifies the presence of IgM and IgG antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, providing users with critical information about their immune response to the infection.
Muhammedin Deliorman, Study First Author and Research Scientist, New York University Abu Dhabi
Deliorman added, “Moving forward, we will explore the potential of this technology in detecting and screening other emerging viral infections. We also plan to incorporate biodegradable porous microneedles into the bandage, enabling efficient finger pricking via in-situ puncturing.
Furthermore, Imen Boumar, one of the first authors of the study and a former Research Assistant in Qasaimeh’s Group, added, “Our goal is to contribute to improved diagnostics and help individuals with their health management, ultimately enhancing our ability to combat and control infectious diseases on a global scale.”
Qasaimeh commented: “Importantly, real-time screening of viral infection using tests like the invented adhesive bandage can play a crucial role in preventing future outbreaks and pandemics by enabling early detection.”
In the future, if the large-scale usage of such adhesive bandage tests is combined with smart phone readouts and dedicated mobile apps, it opens up possibilities for generating location-based heat maps by local governments and health authorities to allow for the early identification of infected individuals, including those who are asymptomatic.
Mohammad Qasaimeh, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering, New York University Abu Dhabi
Qasaimeh added, “By promptly isolating and treating these individuals, the spread of the virus can be significantly reduced, preventing it from reaching a larger population.”
Boumar, I., et al. (2023) Spike- and nucleocapsid-based gold colloid assay toward the development of an adhesive bandage for rapid SARS-CoV-2 immune response detection and screening. Microsystems & Nanoengineering. doi.org/10.1038/s41378-023-00554-8.