• Rapid response

    Rapid response

    Researchers at a South African university are producing nanobodies that could be used for rapid COVID-19 testing, and as a potential therapy.

    According to the University of Pretoria (UP), in tests conducted in collaboration with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the nanobodies have been shown to neutralise SARS-CoV-2 in cells.

    ‘Nanobodies can also be used to design “dipstick” tests, to test saliva, and produce a result in a few minutes, like a pregnancy test. These can be used in communities and homes for COVID-19 diagnosis. They can also be used in an airport testing centre,’ says research lead Tahir Pillay. A major advantage of nanobodies is that they are heat-stable and do not require refrigeration, so they can be easily transported.

    Pillay is collaborating with a Taiwanese company to build a microchip with the nanobody on the surface for an electronic biosensor for COVID-19 detection. ‘This will be used to create a handheld device that could be used in an airport, for example, using saliva,’ he says. .

    The nanobody prototype test has been selected for the semi-finals of the 2020 GAP Innovation Competition: Biosciences.

    17 November 2020
    Image: Gallo/Getty Images