'A game changer': UF researchers help develop 30-second COVID test

A team of University of Florida researchers said a new device can give COVID-19 test results in 30 seconds. The process is like a glucose test, with a sensor strip that's inserted into the mouth, and then the device tests the saliva.

"We put antibodies to the COVID virus on the strip, and we pulse voltage. So we send voltage to the antibodies. And so we get the sample from saliva," Dr. Josephine Esquivel-Upshaw, a UF Professor and member of the research team said.

The team said it tested the device on human samples and found it’s as accurate as a PCR test. 

"We definitely see it as a game changer. You know, if God forbid something else comes up that needs mass testing, you know we're hoping this sensor will change the playing field," Esquivel-Upshaw said.

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Researchers said the portable device will increase access to testing and is less invasive. They are working to ensure the sensor strips only detect COVID-19 and no other viruses like the flu. The team believes the device could be used in venues for law crowds like concerts and stadiums.

"There’s still a lot of people who are hesitant to go into big crowds, you know, to go into concerts. And so, we see it as if the concert organizer has this or even the plane has it. Then you just spit and in 30 seconds," Esquivel-Upshaw said.

Researchers believe the technology could also open the door to detect other illnesses like cancer.

"Our hope is that it will change diagnostics because one of the beauties of this sensor is it's very versatile. So, it's not just limited to COVID," Esquivel-Upshaw said.

The technology has now been licensed from UF by Houndstooth Analytics. The researchers said the device is more affordable than other testing equipment costing around $50 for each device. The team is now going through the process for FDA approval.