Facile biosensors for rapid detection of COVID-19

Significance 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a global crisis, with profound implications on every aspect of normal life. The health care sector remains the most affected as it struggles to contain the soaring infection rates and hospitalizations. After over a year of this novel virus, we know that COVID-19 affects people differently. Whereas most patients will develop mild symptoms and recover without medications, others, especially the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, will experience severe effects. Today, there is over hundred and fifty million cases, caused over 3 million deaths, and many more are still at risk of infection.

Different containment measures, including testing, isolating infected cases, and quarantining contacts, have proved effective for controlling the spread. However, the growing trend of infections is yet to be controlled. The corporation between the healthcare sector, stakeholders, and the research community has been of great significance in formulating strategies to manage the disease before effective drugs or vaccines become available. So far, numerous studies have been conducted to understand better severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus strain causing COVID-19 illness. SARS-CoV-2 is typically a single-stranded RNA virus with four distinct components: membrane, spike, envelope and nucleocapsid, enabling it to gain entry into the host and survive. Most importantly, these proteins, together with developed antibodies, provide facile targets for COVID-19 detection. Intensive research is looking in better understanding of the different infection stages, thereby allowing strategic implementation of appropriate tests at different stages.

Rapid detection is important in monitoring and managing the pandemic. RNA-based tests and antibody tests are the main types of tests carried out to detect cases with symptoms or those within the incubation stage. In addition to rapid testing, proper management and eradication of the pandemic require effective strategic planning and utilization of scarce resources to rescue the overwhelmed healthcare system. This requires information regarding the distribution of the cases and the populations at risk for enhanced epidemiological predictions and formulation of appropriate corresponding policies. Therefore, the development of rapid, accurate and cost-effective detections for large-scale diagnosis and screening of the disease is urgent.

Herein, scientists from Imperial College London: Dr. Lizhou Xu, Dr. Sami Ramadan and Prof. Dr. Norbert Klein, in collaboration with Dr. Danyang Li from King’s College London and Prof. Dr. Yanbin Li from the University of Arkansas, provided critical and expert opinion review of the recent advances in rapid testing strategies to monitor and manage COVID-19 pandemic focusing on the role of biosensors as powerful and innovative tools for virus detection. The authors also discussed the future development of facile virus biosensors. Their review is currently published in the journal, Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

The authors discussed biosensors as promising devices for rapidly detecting viral RNAs, antibodies, and surface antigens as well as other potential biomarkers. They described novel biosensing methods for detecting the virus showcased their potential benefits to the healthcare sectors, especially to the frontline health workers. Additionally, the review out lined how advances in nanotechnology as well as molecular and cell biology can play a key role in the development of new sensors with higher accuracy for rapid detection of the virus.

In summary, the authors echoed the urgent need to develop facile, rapid and cost-effective detection strategies for quick control and management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rapid and large-scale detection would provide essential information for accurate modeling and prediction of the pandemic and formulation of effective containment measures. Drawing lessons from the devastating effects of the pandemic, there is a need for preparedness for potential future outbreaks. In a statement to Medicine Innovates, the authors explained their review would guide the development of novel sensor technologies for addressing the challenge of rapid detection of COVID-19 and future outbreaks.

Reference

Xu, L., Li, D., Ramadan, S., Li, Y., & Klein, N. (2020). Facile biosensors for rapid detection of COVID-19Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 170, 112673.

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