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Debashis Chanda, a professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center and study co-author, shows the optical chip for virus detection. (Credit: University of Central Florida)

A device detects viruses like COVID-19 in the body as fast as and more accurately than current, commonly used rapid detection tests. The optical sensor uses nanotechnology to accurately identify viruses in seconds from blood samples.

Researchers say the device can tell with 95 percent accuracy whether someone has a virus, a significant improvement over current rapid tests that experts warn could have low accuracy. Testing for viruses is important for early treatment and to help stop their spread.

The device works by using nano-scale patterns of gold that reflect back the signature of the virus it is set to detect in a sample of blood. Different viruses can be detected by using different DNA sequences that selectively target specific viruses.

Key to the device’s performance is that it can detect viruses directly from blood samples without the need for sample preparation or purification, thus speeding up the test and improving its accuracy.