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UArizona researchers work to develop device that would give faster COVID-19 results

Posted at 3:38 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 10:04:19-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - For many, waiting the five, six, seven or more days to get COVID-19 test results can be extremely taxing, but now researchers at the University of Arizona are trying to change that.

“Early diagnostics and bringing the capability of monitoring infection is more critical than maybe we thought before," said Dr. Frederic Zenhausern, who's on the team of researchers at UArizona creating a device that would provide quicker results.

Four years ago, Dr. Zenhausern, his team, and others from across the country, started developing a device that would help soldiers determine if they'd come in contact with some sort of biothreat.

“They were looking at a new set of what we call TO1 pathogens, so they are biothreats with typically very high mortality rate if they are not detected early," said Dr. Zenhausern.

After the COVID-19 pandemic began, the team realized this device could be used to determine when someone had come in contact with this virus as well.

The design for the device is simple.

“The core technology is based on a syringe," said Dr. Zenhausern, “what you have is a small plastic cartridge that you screw at the end of the syringe and inside that cartridge you have like a paper membrane and on the paper membrane you have a few different spots.”

Dr. Zenhausern said all someone who wants to use the device to test for a biothreat or COVID-19 would need is one of three bodily fluids.

“It could be blood, saliva or urine depending on the test you want to run and you flow to that paper slowly the liquid," said Dr. Zenhausern.

After that, a software is used to do the diagnosis.

Dr. Zenhausern said ideally, the device will give test results in 15 to 30 minutes.

He said although the device isn't finished yet, and could take more than a year to get into the hands of first responders and soldiers, he's confident it could be widely used in the future.

“It could be everywhere I think, it could be at the doctors office, potentially even at home," he said.