UAE: University develops device that detects Covid-19 in 2 minutes

'It does not require sample preparation or a skilled medical specialist'


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Wed 25 May 2022, 11:40 AM

Last updated: Wed 25 May 2022, 11:49 AM

Researchers at the UAE University have developed a new signal processing method to detect Covid-19 in a patient sample in just two minutes. The device achieves this by using light signals and electrical responses of the viral nucleocapsid protein and antibody interactions.

Dr. Mahmoud Al Ahmad - Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the UAE University said: “Over the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in the way the world works, and we have witnessed huge loss of life and the deterioration of health care in light of the challenges in detecting, preventing and managing infectious diseases.”

He added: "The current situation requires researchers and scientists to collaborate to devise solutions to mitigate these challenges and to use both medicine and technology to address issues related to diagnosis and identification of infected patients, monitoring and control of disease spread."

Al Ahmad explained that their device had a powerful system that offers many advantages compared to current technologies in addition to being extremely fast.

“It does not require sample preparation or a skilled medical specialist. It also has simple operational functions, and sensitivity and specificity of performance, in addition to being in line with the World Health Organization standards. It is low cost in terms of testing, portable and has a low environmental impact,” he said.

How it works

Specifically, the device works by adding antibodies to the virus core protein to the patient's nose swabs, then applying a DC pulse of no more than 1V to avoid damaging the sample, explained the researchers.

The applied pulse has the effect by which the human cells are opened to allow the added antibodies to get into the cell.

The antibodies bind to the sample virus core protein through electrostatic interactions. This association or interaction causes a change in the electrical and light properties of the sample that can be used as a reliable marker of infection and viral replication.

This change can be measured optically using a small spectrophotometer. By comparing the photoelectric properties obtained from experiments on positive and negative patient samples, the team developed an algorithm to detect coronavirus in two minutes.


The researchers said they were currently looking to develop a prototype device that uses this method and conduct further clinical tests with the aim of marketing it, focusing only on detecting the current strain of coronavirus. However, it is possible to extend this method firstly to detection of other viral pathogens and secondly to detection using other body fluids.

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