Research team at NUI Galway receives grant to develop rapid Covid-19 test

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Researchers from NUI Galway have received a grant of almost €200,000 from the Health Research Board to develop a handheld device to quickly detect the virus which causes Covid-19.

The device, which they aim to have available in early 2021, will also test for antibodies to the virus in human samples.

The test device is already being sold and the research team are developing a Covid test to work with it in order to produce and distribute large quantities within a short period of time.

The rapid test can be used by anyone, such as airport officials or school principals.

Professor Gerard Wall, of Microbiology, College of Science and Engineering and SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices (CÚRAM) at NUI Galway, is leading the research along with Professors Patrick Johnson and Karen Wawrousek from the University of Wyoming’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

“Rapid detection of the virus on-site will allow potentially infectious people to be identified so that decisions on isolation and treatment can be made immediately,” said Professor Gerard Wall, NUI Galway.

“There are clear applications for this type of device in airports, workplaces or schools, among other locations.”

Professor Patrick Johnson, University of Wyoming, said that the latest test will have higher sensitivity than other rapid tests and will not require any sample preparation.

“The idea is to have an accurate, portable, on-site test with results within 15-20 minutes. This will allow rapid answers while the person is still present, enabling immediate intervention and treatment,” he said.

Samples can be collected from saliva, nasal swab or blood. The samples will then be placed in glass vials and inserted into hand-held instruments, called Raman spectrometers, for analysis.