UM develops technology to detect coronavirus in 30 minutes

Chen Tianlan, founder of Digifluidic Biotech Ltd and a PhD graduate of UM

The University of Macau (UM) has developed a technology which detects the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in just 30 minutes, the institution advised in a statement.
The “Virus Hunter,” a rapid test kit developed with UM patented technology, completes the whole virus detection process within 30 minutes, making it easier and simpler for healthcare professionals to ascertain a patient’s condition.
The study that led to the technology was conducted by a team of researchers from UM’s State Key Laboratory of Analog and Mixed-
Signal VLSI (AMS-VLSI), including PhD graduates. The research team has been in contact with medical units to finalize the verification tests which will make the technology ready for use.
The “Virus Hunter” is being developed by Digifluidic Biotech Ltd with the support of technology patented by UM. According to the university, the reagent test kits currently available for the novel coronavirus can only be used in a specific laboratory-controlled situations, making it impossible to use them for onsite tests.
This changes with the “Virus Hunter” test kit, where a nasopharyngeal swab detection chip containing reagent can be used to immediately collect information from the patient and run it through the equipment for rapid detection.
The test kit allows frontline personnel to conduct rapid tests on suspected coronavirus patients onsite, helping to streamline the whole detection process.
Chen Tianlan, founder of Digifluidic Biotech Ltd, and a PhD graduate of UM’s Faculty of Science and Technology and the AMS-VLSI Lab conducted the research and in the process created this new technology. The company founded by several UM PhD students was officially established in 2018 to produce portable pathogen testing devices.
According to Chen, although some test kits currently on the market claim to take less than 30 minutes to complete the detection, “most of them are based on immunological tests and cannot detect viruses in the early stages of infection.”
In comparison, “Virus Hunter” uses digital microfluidic chips that replace the manual control part of traditional reagent-based tests, helping to increase the efficiency of detection and reduce the risk of virus transmission.
This is the second major breakthrough in scientific research on ways to tackle the virus which has infected around 15,000 and caused over 300 deaths in China.
Last week, scientists in Australia became the first to recreate the new coronavirus in a laboratory, calling it a “significant breakthrough.”
The discovery is being shared among many teams of professionals working on ways to efficiently detect and treat patients to eliminate the virus.
Previously, a group of researchers in China also recreated the virus’ genome sequence, but not the virus itself.
Doctors said the virus copy can be used as “control material” for testing, making it “a game-changer” for diagnosis. The scientists say these findings can lead to an early-diagnostic test which could detect the virus in people who have not displayed any symptoms, effectively preventing these people from spreading it to others as well as initiating the treatment at an early stage, considerably improving the chances of a faster recovery.
Australian research leader Dr Mike Catton of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said, “an antibody test will enable us to retrospectively test suspected patients so we can gather a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus is, and consequently, among other things, the true mortality rate,” adding, “it will also assist in the assessment of effectiveness of trial vaccines.”

UM study highlights mental health problems amid epidemic

A study conducted by a research team from the University of Macau (UM) drew attention to public mental health issues amid the 2019-nCoV outbreak.
The study was conducted by a research team headed by Professor Xiang Yutao from UM Faculty of Health Sciences and was recognized by the international journal, The Lancet Psychiatry.
Titled ‘Timely Mental Health Care for the 2019-nCoV Outbreak is Urgently Needed,’ the paper draws experience from global epidemic outbreaks in the past and discusses the importance of initiating mental health assessment, treatment, and interventions as part of the anti-epidemic campaign against the novel coronavirus outbreak.
During the epidemic, confirmed patients and suspected patients may experience a range of negative emotions such as feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and anger. In extreme cases, patients may even refuse treatment, become violent or commit suicide. The physical symptoms experienced by these patients can also aggravate mental health problems. In addition, those who have been quarantined, including family members of the patients and close contacts, may experience feelings of guilt.
Frontline medical personnel usually experience more psychological problems because they are at greater risk of catching the virus.
Worrying about catching the virus themselves and spreading it to their family members, friends, and colleagues can lead to severe anxiety and insomnia. JZ

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