This illustration shows a patient sample, with virus-recognizing gold nanoparticles, moving through a laser checkpoint. (Credit: University of Dallas at Texas)

A rapid test for viruses can deliver results as accurate as lab tests within 30 minutes. The technology is 150 times more accurate than traditional rapid tests and matches the accuracy of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

While the current study focused on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Qin said the technology can be applied to other viruses, such as those that cause influenza and COVID-19. Researchers also aim to use the platform to identify cancer biomarkers.

The method, called DIgitAl plasMONic nanobubble Detection (DIAMOND), involves attaching gold nanoparticles to antibodies against the virus being tested. These combination molecules are then mixed with a patient sample from a nasal swab. If the sample contains a virus, the antibodies labeled with gold nanoparticles will bind with proteins on the virus’s surface.

The researchers use a syringe to pump the sample into a tube called a microchannel, which is as narrow as a strand of thin spaghetti. The microchannel is mounted on a glass slide placed on a surface. As the liquid flows through the microchannel, it passes through the light of two lasers.