Colorimetric Cotton Swab for Viral Protease Detection

Anal Chem. 2022 Sep 20;94(37):12699-12705. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.2c02033. Epub 2022 Sep 2.


Reporting the activity of a specific viral protease remains an acute need for rapid point-of-care detection strategies that can distinguish active infection from a resolved infection. In this work, we present a simple colorimetric approach for reporting the activity of a specific viral protease through direct color conversion on a cotton swab, which has the potential to be extended to detect the corresponding virus. We use SARS-CoV-2 viral protease as a proof-of-concept model system. We use 4-aminomalachite green (4-AMG) as the base chromophore structure to design a CoV2-AMG reporter, which is selective toward the SARS-CoV-2 Mpro but does not produce any observable color change in the presence of other viral proteases. The color change is observable by the naked eye, as well as smartphone imaging, which affords a lower limit of detection. The simplicity and generalizability of the method could be instrumental in combating future viral outbreaks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • Colorimetry / methods
  • Humans
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Viral Proteases


  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Viral Proteases