Testing for SARS-CoV-2 Using Fingerprint Sweat
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Current methods of testing for SARS-CoV-2 can be time consuming, complex, and rely on samples taken from a patient’s mouth or nose. A test which is simple, rapid, and non-invasive could make a vast difference to testing efforts, enabling non-medical professionals to carry out COVID-19 testing at the point-of-care.
Intelligent Fingerprinting and Imperial College London are working together to develop such a test, using a fingerprint-based method which could provide results in 10 minutes. The collaboration will research the use of fingerprint sweat as a sample matrix to detect SARS-CoV-2, which could offer several advantages over current methods.
Fingerprint sweat samples are already being used in drug screening efforts to detect drug metabolites, using a portable test reader. The project aims to develop a similar test for COVID-19.
To learn more about the project and the benefits a fingerprint test could offer, we spoke to Phil Hand, Executive Chairman, Intelligent Fingerprinting.
Anna MacDonald (AM): Can you give us a step-by-step overview of how the fingerprinting test would be carried out?
Phil Hand (PH): The fingerprint COVID-19 test would be along similar lines to that of our drug test. So, the individual presses each of their 10 fingertips onto the test cartridge in sequence, in a process that takes less than a minute (five seconds per finger). The cartridge is then inserted into our portable reader for analysis which, within 10 minutes, will determine whether or not a person has the virus.
AM: What chemicals/metabolites will the test detect in sweat to identify if someone is positive for SARS-CoV-2?
PH: The intact or partially degraded nucleocapsid viral protein would be detected in the fingerprint sweat sample to detect for the presence of virus in the person being tested.
AM: What are the advantages of testing in this way?
PH: The advantages are the hygienic nature of the test – which also allows for social distancing during sample collection and analysis – and the speed with which an answer can be obtained. It is a fully portable point-of-care system which enables on-site testing, with the results provided there and then in just 10 minutes, rather than the current need to send samples back to a lab and wait up to 48 hours before the results are known.
AM: How will the sensitivity of the test be determined?
PH: The sensitivity of the assay will be determined independently. Samples will be collected and tested from patients with and without the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which will allow for the test’s performance to be determined, where RT-PCR will be used to confirm the tested patients’ virus status.
AM: In what ways could an increase in rapid point-of-care testing help to fight the current COVID-19 pandemic?
PH: A rapid point-of-care test would enable identification of individuals with the virus within 10 mins, allowing them to be isolated immediately and for tracking and tracing to begin straightaway, helping to stop or reduce infection transmission from that person. Waiting for the current 48 hours while test results are sent off-site relying on labs – does mean that infected people can pass the virus on before they know they should be isolated.
Phil Hand was speaking to Anna MacDonald, Science Writer, Technology Networks.