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Nanotech breakthrough means reliable COVID-19 test results in minutes

iStock/wildpixel(MARYLAND) -- Nanoparticles -- tiny materials that can be programmed to do various functions -- were once the stuff of science fiction, but now real-life science is seeing them pressed into service in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. 

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have found a way to use plasmonic gold nanoparticles to detect the COVID-19 virus in as little as 10 minutes, making tests that are not only faster, but more reliable than others.

In this case, a patient provides a nasal swab or saliva sample, and the nanoparticles are used to analyze it: if the virus is detected, a liquid in which the nanoparticles are contained will turn from purple to blue.

"Based on our preliminary results, we believe this promising new test may detect RNA material from the virus as early as the first day of infection. Additional studies are needed, however, to confirm whether this is indeed the case," says lead author Dipanjan Pan, PhD, a professor of diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine and pediatrics at the school, in a press release.

This new breed of testing cuts down on false negatives, and also makes it possible for a person to get their results on-site, as opposed to a hospital having to send samples to a lab for analysis.

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