Development of a sensitive antigen-based rapid test for COVID-19 diagnosis

The Covid-19 pandemic is caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus, a coronavirus that causes, among other symptoms, severe respiratory disease. To control the spread of this disease, it is of paramount importance that infection cases are readily discovered and followed - this is done by diagnostic testing. So far, the most reliable test method is RT-PCR, which depends on the access to the virus genome and therefore requires specialized personal, materials and time. Other quicker diagnostic tests focus on the detection of viral antigens in saliva or swab samples. These tests are however less sensitive and less specific compared to RT-PCR.

The project DIRECT-Dx aims at developing a diagnostic test that detects the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus directly from patient samples, without the need of accessing the viruses’ DNA. In collaboration with our industrial partners at Preclinics, we aim at developing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and peptides that bind to the new coronavirus, without the need for sample manipulation. This specific binding will be detected with easy-to-use and well-established chemical reactions. The signal produced by the virus-peptide interaction can immediately be detected with standard laboratory machinery. Once this system is well established, we aim at adapting it into a quick detection method, where the signal produced by the virus-peptide interaction is translated in real time into, for example, a color change in order to use it for home testing

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The project DIRECT-Dx is realized in collaboration with preclinics GmbH. The work is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (grant no. 03COV24A).

Logo of the BMBF in english
Photo: BMBF