Researchers at the University of New Brunswick are coming up with a faster way to diagnose COVID-19 with point-of-care devices that can be used by clinicians.
“Essentially, the test would be similar to a glucose sensor for diabetics. It’s a little electrode that would be disposable that you insert into an analyzer and then that could return a result,” said University of New Brunswick research scientist Connor Flynn.
UNB researchers were awarded $409,854 by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for 13 projects investigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will support research in nursing, education and chemistry.
The goal is for the testing project is to come up with a test to detect the virus within minutes to increase testing capacity and decrease wait times in emergency departments.
“Point-of-care devices, unlike other traditional tests, are typically very cheap. It’s still a little early for us to say for sure how much it will cost at this point but it will definitely be cheaper than what we have now,” said Flynn.
Currently, there are two primary diagnostic methods available to detect the coronavirus. The first method reveals the presence of the virus, and the second detects antibodies produced in the bloodstream as a response to infection.
“When we apply electricity to a biological or chemical sample, what kind of information can we get back from that? And we use that information to tell us whether or not the virus is present,” said Flynn.
David MaGee, the vice-president of research at UNB, says the researchers “want to join this global fight to try and harness this virus.”
“It’s not a given yet that a vaccine will be found and will be as wide-ranging and useful as we hope,” said MaGee.
Flynn is eager to see the results of the researchers’ work.
“I feel like there is something special about research that can be taken from the laboratory and you can see it being instituted in society around you,” he said.
He says the team is expecting to have results within a month and will “hopefully have a functional prototype within the next few months.”
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