While other Kiwi were baking bread and going for daily walks during the national lockdown, a group of scientists joined forces.

While other Kiwi were baking bread and going for daily walks during the national lockdown, a group of scientists joined forces and came up with a Covid-19 breath test – which could replace unpleasant nose swabs and provide results in minutes.

“Unlike other proposed Covid-19 breath-testing technologies, this test directly detects the Covid-19 spike protein antigen and so is expected to be as accurate as the current gold standard lab-based approach,” University of Canterbury (UC) associate professor Deborah Crittenden said.

The results of the research, ‘Optical Detection of CoV-SARS-2 Viral Proteins to Sub-Picomolar Concentrations’, have just been published in ACS Omega, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

The researchers, led by Crittenden, were from Massey University’s MacDiarmid Institute, Callaghan Innovation’s Protein Science and Engineering team and UC’s Biomolecular Interaction Centre.

The research was triggered and made possible by the Covid-19 pandemic, as it allowed resource that would have been allocated elsewhere to be directed to the study, following the national lock down in March and April 2020.

“Over lockdown, we started brainstorming how we could adapt existing biomolecular sensing approaches to detecting Covid.

The key insight is that you need a ‘recognition element’ that specifically and selectively binds to part of the virus – in our case, the spike protein,” Crittenden, from UC’s school of physical and chemical science, said.

“If developed and commercialised, we could have near-immediate point of use/care Covid-testing with the same accuracy as current gold standard lab tests.

“One could imagine having these devices at all border facilities, such as airports, ports, and MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) facilities, for example,” Crittenden said.

She said there was no current funding to progress the work towards commercialisation and widespread use.

“We’d love to hear from other scientists and research engineers with expertise in nanomaterial design for point-of-use surface-enhanced Raman scattering applications.”

Development of the work for widespread commercial use would take up to six months.

Crittenden said while it was probably too late to be used in the Covid-19 pandemic, the proof of principle could be applied to many other viral diseases including influenza. Originally published at stuff