NIAB develops portable coronavirus detection kit 

#GS3 #Science&Technology #COVID-19  

The device can detect novel coronavirus antigens in 20 microlitres of human saliva within 30 seconds 

  • India will be able to produce RT-PCR and antibody test kits by the end of May, researchers from the National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB), Hyderabad, have developed a biosensor that can detect the novel coronavirus in saliva samples.  
  • Biosensors have been currently used across the world to detect toxins, narcotic drugs, and are also considered as a reliable tool to detect infectious diseases.  

New device 

  • The new portable device named eCovSens, can be used to detect the presence of novel coronavirus antigens in human saliva within 30 seconds using just 20 microlitres of the sample.  
  • The in-house built biosensor consists of a carbon electrode and the coronavirus antibody.   
  • The antibody is capable of binding with the spike protein found on the outer layer of the virus.   
  • An electrical signal is generated when the antigen and antibody binds.  
  • Electrical components in the device further amplify this signal, process it, convert it to digital readings on an LCD display.  
  • The device can also be connected to a computer or cellphone via Bluetooth and studied.   
  • The signal’s intensity was found to be proportional to the concentration of the antigen in the sample.  


  • The device can also be battery-operated as it uses very low voltage of 1.3V to 3V.   
  • The team also compared eCovSens to a regular potentiostat and found the new device to be ultrasensitive and quicker.  
  • The device is portable and can be taken to the bedside of the patient too.   
  • Also, it requires only a very small amount of saliva.   
  • The device is stable and when built in bulk can drastically bring down the cost of testing.   
  • The validation studies using saliva samples from coronavirus patients are yet to be done  

Other viral antigens 

  • Cross-reactivity studies were done to check if the antibody in the device binds with any other viral antigen.   
  • No electric current was generated when tested with antigens of the Avian influenza virus.   
  • The device can be customised to any target analyte, and can also have other future applications for detection of various other ailments.  
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