High-speed and high-throughput label-free, primer-free COVID‑19 saliva test using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy
There are two principal ways of detecting the virus responsible for COVID‑19 (SARS-CoV-2): polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and blood tests for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Both require tailored biochemical reagents e.g. specific primers, enzymes, antibodies. Such reagents can be costly and are in limited supply. Moreover, these analyses often require hours for a diagnosis, which could lead to spreading of the virus through asymptomatic individuals in airports, schools, hospitals and workplaces. We propose the development of a primer-free SARS-CoV-2 test that uses surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to detect changes in the optical properties of saliva upon infection. The method employs low-powered lasers to detect and molecules (lipids, proteins, DNA/RNA, specific amino acids) in a label-free manner within seconds. The inelastically-scattered laser light yields a spectral fingerprint that has proven sensitive to changes in metabolites and disease state, including being able to discriminate between different types of viruses. Our team will work with clinicians and the company Photon etc to develop a professionally made spectroscopy system equipped with an artificial intelligence algorithm that can detect individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2.