As the ability to test for the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus becomes a pressing concern, the limited number of state and local laboratories that are authorized by U.S. health officials to conduct diagnostic testing poses a challenge.
Enter Purdue biomedical engineers. According to a Purdue press release, Purdue biomedical engineers have created a portable, handheld paper device that can efficiently test for MERS-CoV, a different strain of coronavirus. Test results can be directly read from the device.
The paper device is not specifically limited to particular viruses, thus allowing it the potential to test for COVID-19. However, developing a process to manufacture the device would cost several millions of dollars, according to the release.
Paper-based device manufacturing is not new, but the device's shape may complicate the process.
"Because this device has a more complex shape, a process hasn't been developed to make it available on a commercial scale," said Jacqueline Linnes, a biomedical engineering professor in the release. However, many processes in electronics and paper manufacturing could be translated to scaling up this device."
According to the release, Linnes' team has only been able to produce the testing devices at a lab scale. The process includes cutting out the components for assembly by hand.
Suggestions for manufacturing include producing the device "using the same roll-to-roll manufacturing tools that make pregnancy tests," the release says.
According to the release, users would be able to see results within 40 minutes.