The current outbreak of the pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) demands its rapid, convenient, and large-scale diagnosis to downregulate its spread within as well as across the communities. But the reliability, reproducibility, and selectivity of majority of such diagnostic tests fail when they are tested either to a viral load at its early representation or to a viral gene mutated during its current spread. In this regard, a selective "naked-eye" detection of SARS-CoV-2 is highly desirable, which can be tested without accessing any advanced instrumental techniques. We herein report the development of a colorimetric assay based on gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), when capped with suitably designed thiol-modified antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) specific for N-gene (nucleocapsid phosphoprotein) of SARS-CoV-2, could be used for diagnosing positive COVID-19 cases within 10 min from the isolated RNA samples. The thiol-modified ASO-capped AuNPs agglomerate selectively in the presence of its target RNA sequence of SARS-CoV-2 and demonstrate a change in its surface plasmon resonance. Further, the addition of RNaseH cleaves the RNA strand from the RNA-DNA hybrid leading to a visually detectable precipitate from the solution mediated by the additional agglomeration among the AuNPs. The selectivity of the assay has been monitored in the presence of MERS-CoV viral RNA with a limit of detection of 0.18 ng/μL of RNA having SARS-CoV-2 viral load. Thus, the current study reports a selective and visual "naked-eye" detection of COVID-19 causative virus, SARS-CoV-2, without the requirement of any sophisticated instrumental techniques.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; antisense oligonucleotide; gold nanoparticle; hyperspectral imaging; naked-eye detection.
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