Purdue scientists develop coronavirus test strips

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — Researchers at Purdue University have been working for the last four years to develop a test for a coronavirus. Now, as one is spreading across the United States, they’re getting results.

They have created strips able to show you within an hour if you have a severe coronavirus infection.

“Right now, it takes about 15 minutes for the chemistry in the little test tube, and then as you put that on the paper and fold it over, it’s about another 40 minutes for the signal to develop,” Jacqueline Linnes, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, said.

Researchers hope the final version of the test can detect less severe cases and be as easy to read as a pregnancy test, where two lines means infected, one line means you’re clear.

“The first part actually runs just like a pregnancy test would,” Linnes said. “The innovation we have is that we have a secondary enzyme that makes that test line really dark and so that you have no question about whether you have one line or two.”

The test’s development began in 2016, so these strips test for earlier-known strains of coronavirus — not COVID-19, the strain thought to have started its spread from Wuhan, China.

“It is really surprising, and we did not expect this at all when we started this test,” Linnes said. “We were expecting to do this retroactively for the MERS-CoV, and so it’s been quite a whirlwind that suddenly it’s really relevant and prospectively relevant for this new virus.”

With the strips already detecting one strain, there’s a large possibility the development could be used to detect the current strain. But it might be too late for funding to work on a detecting this new strain and to make the tests available for consumers.

“That’s probably going to take a few months on its own,” Linnes said. “The ramp-up in manufacturing can be done fairly quickly when you have the resources behind it.”

Either way, the research can help get ahead of whatever comes next.

“Our hope is, because there have been three coronaviruses in the last 10 years or so, that we could be ready for the next one that comes around,” Linnes said.

Researchers say they need a couple million dollars in funding before development can progress any further.

It still may be a while before the test strips are readily available, but Purdue researchers are hoping it won’t be too long until they can get them in doctors’ offices.