OSAKA -- Technology capable of testing saliva for the coronavirus in five minutes has been developed, a research team at Osaka University announced June 17.
The rapid testing has been enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) that analyzes the virus's shape and size. In addition to contributing to preventing coronavirus infections, the new method can also quickly respond to future infectious diseases.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that detect virus-specific genes are currently the primary coronavirus testing method, but the results take a long time and require an inspection technique.
The research team led by professor Masateru Taniguchi of Osaka University's Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research has instead focused on the virus's shape and size, and its surface's electrical properties.
By drilling a hole in a semiconductor chip small enough to allow a single virus to pass through and having AI learn the waveform of the electric current when the virus passes through, they succeeded in distinguishing the novel coronavirus from several other coronaviruses and influenza viruses.
Skilled professionals are not required to operate the test because it is administered simply by setting saliva up at the machine. It reportedly has more than 90% accuracy at present.
The researchers plan to apply to the Japanese government for medical device approval by the end of the year. "We want to collect more data to improve accuracy," Taniguchi said.
The team's results were published in the online edition of U.K. scientific journal Nature Communications on June 17.
(Japanese original by Koki Matsumoto, Osaka Science & Environment News Department)