Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Viral Particles Using Direct, Reagent-Free Electrochemical Sensing

J Am Chem Soc. 2021 Feb 3;143(4):1722-1727. doi: 10.1021/jacs.0c10810. Epub 2021 Jan 22.


The development of new methods for direct viral detection using streamlined and ideally reagent-free assays is a timely and important, but challenging, problem. The challenge of combatting the COVID-19 pandemic has been exacerbated by the lack of rapid and effective methods to identify viral pathogens like SARS-CoV-2 on-demand. Existing gold standard nucleic acid-based approaches require enzymatic amplification to achieve clinically relevant levels of sensitivity and are not typically used outside of a laboratory setting. Here, we report reagent-free viral sensing that directly reads out the presence of viral particles in 5 minutes using only a sensor-modified electrode chip. The approach relies on a class of electrode-tethered sensors bearing an analyte-binding antibody displayed on a negatively charged DNA linker that also features a tethered redox probe. When a positive potential is applied, the sensor is transported to the electrode surface. Using chronoamperometry, the presence of viral particles and proteins can be detected as these species increase the hydrodynamic drag on the sensor. This report is the first virus-detecting assay that uses the kinetic response of a probe/virus complex to analyze the complexation state of the antibody. We demonstrate the performance of this sensing approach as a means to detect, within 5 min, the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its associated spike protein in test samples and in unprocessed patient saliva.

MeSH terms

  • Biosensing Techniques / instrumentation
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • COVID-19 Testing / instrumentation
  • COVID-19 Testing / methods*
  • Electrochemical Techniques / instrumentation
  • Electrochemical Techniques / methods*
  • Electrodes
  • Humans
  • Point-of-Care Testing
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • Saliva / virology
  • Virion / isolation & purification*