Purdue University biomedical engineers have developed a handheld paper device that quickly and accurately detects a different strain of coronavirus, MERS-CoV, even in really small quantities, according to a university article. Because the device isn't specific to any virus, the same platform could be used to detect the COVID-19 strain.

A clear test result can be read directly from the device itself, making it portable, according to the article.

While it could be used to detect the COVID-19 strain; developing a process to manufacture it would cost at least a couple of million dollars, according to the article.

A research paper on the device recently published in the journal ACS Omega.

“Paper-based devices are already manufactured – pregnancy tests are paper-based. Because this device has a more complex shape, a process hasn't been developed to make it available on a commercial scale,” said Jacqueline Linnes, Purdue's Marta E. Gross Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering. “However, many processes in electronics and paper manufacturing could be translated to scaling up this device,” Linnes, a BMES member said. 

Linnes specializes in building portable diagnostic tools that can rapidly detect a range of infectious diseases.
Her lab's devices are made out of cheap but robust paper-like materials, such as glass fiber and cellulose, that have been demonstrated to detect HIV and cholera. To know if a sample is positive, a user just looks for a second line to appear next to a control line on the device's paper strip – similar to reading a pregnancy test.

But so far, Linnes' team has just been able to produce these devices on a lab scale, which calls for cutting out the paper components by hand.

“The most difficult aspect of producing this device is definitely the assembly,” said K Byers, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering at Purdue. Byers is also a BMES member. 

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