UK and Indian scientists have collaboratively created a low-cost sensor for the detection of COVID-19 fragments in waste water, allowing health workers to better understand the prevalence of the illness in a wider region. The technology, developed by scientists from Strathclyde University and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, may be used to track prevalence of COVID-19 in low- and middle-income nations that are struggling with mass testing.
According to research recently published in the journal, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, the sensor may be used with portable equipment, which uses the standard Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus without having to use the high cost of chemicals and laboratory infrastructure required for real time quantitative PCR tests. The sensor was tested using waste water obtained from a Mumbai wastewater treatment facility laced with ribonucleic acid SARS-Cov-2 (RNA). Dr Andy Ward, Chancellor in Engineering, explained that many low- to middle-income nations confront a problem to monitor COVID-19 for individuals because of restricted access to mass testing facilities. “Searching for evidence of the virus in wastewater would allow authorities of public health to better grasp how common the sickness is in a wider region.” Ward said waste water tests for the presence of nuclear acid SARS-CoV-2 are already widely recognized as a technique for identifying locations where the numbers of cases may increase and, as a result, more precise actions may be done to prevent viral propagation in certain places.
The current Gold Standard Real-time PCR (qPCR) testing procedure demands, however, the completion of costly laboratory equipment and qualified scientists. In addition, if resources are limited, testing for human samples would more likely take priority over monitoring of wastewater epidemiology. He emphasized that reduced costs and other ways are needed to assist wastewater monitoring. The researchers observed that the sensor was able to identify genetic material as low as 10 picograms per microliter at concentrations. Dr Siddharth Tallur, IIT Bombay’s Associate Professor in the Electrical Engineering Department, said that the technology we have created does not only apply to SARS-CoV-2, but can be employed for any other virus and is hence very adaptable.
In the future, we will concentrate on optimizing the test further to improve precision and combine the test with a portable platform for both PCR reaction and electrochemical measurement.