Rapid Reagent-Free Detection of COVID‑19 in Exhaled Breath Condensate using Ultra-Sensitive Multi-wavelength SERS Nano-gratings
As the third documented emergence of an animal-to-human coronavirus during the past two decades (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2002, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2012), the current pandemic and near-certainty of future epidemics demands intensified surveillance and proactive screening. Definitive therapy for novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is likely at least a year away. Current standard-of-care diagnostic testing with real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR) is resource intensive, costly and inaccurate. An alternative, high sensitivity, rapid and label-free technique for detecting and differentiating molecular structures, including viral strains, at the point-of-testing is urgently needed.
Since 2014, Professor Kherani’s team at the University of Toronto (UofT) has been developing a novel nanophotonic sensing (NPS) platform to detect disease biomarkers with unprecedented sensitivity. This patented technology platform will be repurposed to develop a high sensitivity, rapid near-instantaneous, reagent-free point-of-care testing (PoCT) system for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We (engineering, medicine, and industry) collaboratively propose to demonstrate the viability of rapid reagent-free detection of COVID‑19 in exhaled breath condensate (EBC) and allied samples using ultra-sensitive multi-wavelength SERS nano-gratings technology, and further, translate this technology for widespread use in a range of public and health settings. Deployment of the EBC Analyzer will improve COVID‑19 containment protocols, facilitating rapid positive-case identification in hospitals, nursing homes and the community at large (schools, offices, factories and transportation hubs) and will allow for future disease surveillance.