Rapid Direct Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Aerosols in Exhaled Breath at the Point of Care
Airborne transmission via virus-laden aerosols is a dominant route for the transmission of respiratory diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Direct, non-invasive screening of respiratory virus aerosols in patients has been a long-standing technical challenge. Here, we introduce a point-of-care testing platform that directly detects SARS-CoV-2 aerosols in as little as two exhaled breaths of patients and provides results in under 60 s. It integrates a hand-held breath aerosol collector and a llama-derived, SARS-CoV-2 spike-protein specific nanobody bound to an ultrasensitive micro-immunoelectrode biosensor, which detects the oxidation of tyrosine amino acids present in SARS-CoV-2 viral particles. Laboratory and clinical trial results were within 20% of those obtained using standard testing methods. Importantly, the electrochemical biosensor directly detects the virus itself, as opposed to a surrogate or signature of the virus, and is sensitive to as little as 10 viral particles in a sample. Our platform holds the potential to be adapted for multiplexed detection of different respiratory viruses. It provides a rapid and non-invasive alternative to conventional viral diagnostics.