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Covid, goodbye to tampons? Here is a patch that detects antibodies to the virus

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A special patch that is applied to the skin and which can provide a result in about three minutes. It could be the new medical device that, instead of the current swabs, allows you to check for the presence of a Sars-Cov-2 infection in a safe, reliable and non-invasive way. Exposed in detail in an article published in the journal “Scientific Reports”, this particular perspective emerged thanks to a study conducted by scientists from the University of Tokyo.

The invasiveness of the procedures

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The Japanese scholars, who have worked precisely with the intention of developing a new method to detect specific antibodies for the coronavirus, explained that the ineffective identification of individuals infected with Sars-Cov-2 has also severely limited the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. And, equally, the high rate of asymptomatic infections, according to current estimates between 16 and 38%, has exacerbated the difficulties in identifying positive cases and in curbing the chains of contagion. The options available to date to recognize infected patients, the experts reported, are limited by the high costs but not only by the invasiveness of the procedures, by the long times needed to have a response and by the need for specific equipment.

How the patch works

As confirmed by Leilei Bao, who coordinated the team of researchers, at the end of the study it was possible to develop a procedure that returns reliable results in a few minutes. All thanks to the analysis of the interstitial fluid (ISF), present in the layers of the epidermis and dermis of the skin. The level of antibodies present in the ISF, explained Bao, “is lower than the quantities observed in the blood, but still sufficient to carry out detection tests”. And, given this premise, the Japanese researchers have decided to develop an innovative approach to sample this substance. As part of the research, said Beomjoon Kim, another expert involved in the work in question, “we made biodegradable porous microneedles made of polylactic acid. These can take the ISF from the skin “. In a subsequent step, he continued, “we built an immunological biosensor capable of detecting antibodies specific to Sars-Cov-2”. Ultimately, therefore, scientists developed a compact patch capable of detecting antibodies within 3 minutes. The device, the study authors concluded, “has great potential for rapid screening of Covid-19 and, theoretically, could be readjusted to detect the presence of other infections.” At the same time, they specified again, “it would be a reliable, effective and low-cost option, suitable also for low-income areas, a key objective for the global management of epidemics”.

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