An Early-warning Surveillance System for Airborne COVID‑19 Viruses
COVID‑19 is an infectious disease. Airborne viruses released from COVID‑19 patients are responsible for the rapid spread of the disease. We might have to live with COVID‑19 for months before we can find an effective vaccine. In the worst scenario, a safe and effective vaccine may never be found and we must live with the virus (like the AIDS-HIV virus). Therefore, early detection of the presence of the airborne COVID‑19 virus in public places (e.g., schools, shopping centers, stadiums, etc.) is critical for preventing COVID‑19 spreading. The technical challenge is to develop a portable device that can be easily deployed onsite to detect and quantify a minuscule quantity of COVID‑19 virus in the air. Over the past 7 years, we have successfully designed a lab-on-chip (LOC) surveillance biosensor to monitor airborne spores that can impact canola and wheat. The sensing Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices are linked via ad-hoc sensing networks to warn farmers early. In this NSERC grant, we will extend our design by incorporating anti-COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies as probes to selectively capture the COVID‑19 viruses and sense their presence with an integrated Coulter counter device. The goal is to directly and unambiguously correlate the number of COVID‑19 viruses on the sensor surface with the impedance measurements of the countering system. The proposed early-warning technology is crucial for Canadians and the Canadian economy. This technology can help small Canadian enterprises, like Hidaca Ltd., to develop new products. This research will also position the University of Alberta as a leading institute in advancing new opportunities and applications in healthcare biotechnologies.