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UK, Indian scientists collaborate to build low-cost sensor to detect COVID-19

LONDON: Scientists from the United Kingdom and India have collaborated to build a low-cost sensor that can identify fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19 in wastewater, paving the way for health officials to better understand how widespread the disease is.

Researchers from the University of Strathclyde and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay developed the technology which might be used to monitor COVID-19 prevalence in low and middle income nations that struggle the resources to do large human testing.

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According to research published recently in the journal Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, the sensor can be used with portable equipment that uses the standard Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus without the need for the expensive chemicals and lab infrastructure required for real-time quantitative PCR tests.

In Mumbai, the sensor was tested with wastewater collected from a sewage treatment plant spiked with SARS-Cov-2 Ribonucleic Acid (RNA).

Testing wastewater for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid is already well recognised as a method for identifying places where case numbers are likely to be increasing that allow for more targeted action to limit viral spread in specific places, according to Ward.

“The technology we have created is not just applicable to SARS-CoV-2, it could be applied to any other virus so it’s very versatile”, said Dr Siddharth Tallur, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Bombay.

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