posted on 09/12/2021 06:00
(credit: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)
Scientists in Thailand are working on a project that could make covid-19 detection tests simpler and less invasive. They developed a system capable of identifying the presence of the new coronavirus through sweat, with a result obtained in less than a minute. The new technology yielded encouraging results in tests carried out on more than 2,000 people on the streets of Bangkok, the country’s capital.
On examination, beads of sweat are collected, with a cotton swab, from the armpit of the person suspected of having an infection. Fifteen minutes later, the rod is inserted into a glass tube sterilized with ultraviolet rays, where the sample is analyzed. The result is available in just 30 seconds. “Our assessment is 95% reliable, a high result and comparable to nasal CRP,” Chadin Kulsing, a researcher at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and one of the creators of the test, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) news.
Kulsing’s research is an offshoot of a study in which he and his team trained sniffer dogs to detect, through human perspiration, asymptomatic cases of covid-19. “People infected with the new coronavirus secrete different chemicals. This discovery opens doors for the development of various types of analysis, which can focus on identifying specific odors”, he detailed.
Thailand is not the first country to use sweat to detect covid-19. The UK and US have also started similar experiments, but the technologies are not available. Kulsing hopes that his detection method, which is still in the experimental phase, may soon be used as an alternative to PCR. The exam considered the gold standard requires more labor-intensive processing, as it is done in the laboratory, in addition to being more expensive, recalled the researcher.
Also in an interview with AFP, one of the full-scale test participants said he approved of the ease of the approach. “It’s much more practical. I don’t need to go to a laboratory and I can keep working while I wait for the result”, he said. The country has registered nearly 1.5 million cases and 14,000 deaths per covid, most in recent months.
Mu strain: vigilant Europeans
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said yesterday that the mu variant, first identified in January in Colombia, is “potentially worrying.” According to Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccine strategy at EMA, despite focusing on the strain that emerged in India, delta, the agency is also “investigating other variants that can spread, such as lambda (identified in Peru) and more recently , the mu”. “Mu could be potentially more worrying, because it could present a possible risk of immunoevasion, that is, of resistance to vaccines,” said Cavaleri, adding that European experts will exchange information with vaccine research centers on the effectiveness of immunizations against the new variant. “It must be made clear that we still don’t have data showing that this strain is spread as widely or that it has the potential to overtake the delta variant as dominant,” he emphasized.