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Swiss scientists have developed a new device that can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus quickly and accurately. This is a breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19. The microfluidic device, developed by three Swiss institutions, uses a unique DNA/RNA duplex technology to distinguish SARS-CoV-2 from other respiratory viruses. It can provide results in less than 10 minutes, says the technical university of Lausanne in a press release


The device works by using a DNA biosensor to detect RNA from the virus in human saliva. When the viral RNA binds to the DNA biosensor, it forms a DNA/RNA duplex. This duplex is then detected by fluorescence measurements, allowing the sensor to pick up as little as 10 attomolar of the virus RNA. For perspective, one attomolar is equivalent to a drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

The device is highly selective for SARS-CoV-2 and does not produce false positives for other coronaviruses. This makes it a valuable tool for population monitoring and mitigation efforts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be deployed in non-medical environments, such as airports, schools, and workplaces. The fact that it can provide results in less than 10 minutes makes it superb for point-of-care diagnostics.

Practical benefits

The new device also offers several practical benefits, such as ease of use and portability. It does not require any special training to operate and can be deployed in a variety of settings. This makes it a valuable tool for controlling the spread of the virus. Furthermore, the device is compact and can easily be transported to different locations, making it ideal for on-site testing and diagnosis. 

Additionally, the device is versatile and can be adapted to detect other viruses with simple modifications to the sensor’s probe. “This device is highly versatile,” says Sandrine Gerber-Lemaire, one of the project leaders. “The biosensor unit can be easily adapted to the detection of other viruses by the selection and immobilization of other DNA probe sequences.”

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