COVID-19 Detection using optical techniques is possible, new study says

University of Texas at Austin scientists in collaboration with those at Omega Optics Inc. have developed what they claim is an optical platform for efficient diagnosis of Covid-19 – a step they claim could pave way for point-of-care testing.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken lives of millions of people around the world and the trend will continue if speedy and efficient detection techniques are not developed and used. The team of researchers have put forward and discussed the prospects of optical biosensors for point-of-care COVID-19 testing in the journal Applied Physics Reviews, from AIP Publishing.

Scientists say that the rapid evolution of coronavirus is wreaking havoc and the only way to have an upper hand and to contain the pandemic is to prevent and control cases and outbreaks when they arise. For that purpose, there has to be a rapid testing platform that is easy to use and is easily accessible.

One of the most promising solutions to accurate rapid testing is using optical biosensors. When a virion is present on the surface of an optical sensor, its interaction with a light beam on the sensor affects the light’s properties, causing a measurable shift in the light signal. Even with only a very small viral dosage, the system can reliably detect the coronavirus in real time.

Commercially available tests aren’t able to provide good enough detection rates due to low viral loads at the onset of Covid-19. Scientists say that detecting the virus during the early days of infection is particularly challenging.

There are a number of different ways in which this interaction can be utilized and improved upon, such as integrating it with measurements of plasma oscillations or incorporating graphene into its fabrication process.

Each potential configuration uses a different mechanism to sense the virus and has its own set of advantages and drawbacks, but the primary takeaway remains the same. Even with the widespread availability of vaccines, the pandemic cannot be overcome without developing faster ways to determine infection, particularly as mutations and new variants of the virus continue to arise.