Running diagnostics is the singular most important step in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Gold could play a pivotal role in developing rapid diagnostic test kits. Long story short, gold nanoparticles can be used as an indicator in lateral flow assays (LFAs) and identify the presence of certain biomarkers in the immune system.
This has been done for over 40 years and counting. To put things in perspective, the WHO estimates that over 412 million malaria LFAs distributed in 2018, over half of these were purchased and distributed by the National Malaria Programmes globally. It goes without saying that the total number of LFAs likely exceeds 500 million. And what is the common denominator in all these tests? Gold.
Because of how covertly the coronavirus spreads, we need quick and accurate diagnostics to tackle the outbreak. While there are many diagnostic tools that can be used to diagnose COVID-19, they are mostly limited by two fundamental parameters: cost and speed of manufacture. Almost all testing kits require samples from the subject which are then hauled off to the nearest laboratory for analysis – a slow and expensive process, especially when time is of the essence.
Fortunately, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics’ (FIND) suggests that there are almost 200 diagnostics that can be commercially developed en-masse. Most of them are gold-based. Of these, special US-based BioMedomics deserves special mention for developing rapid test kits that can show extremely quick results. The best part is that it works even if the person is no longer infected with the virus.
This LFA was used in China and has also received CE-mark certification for use in Europe. At the time of writing, it is currently under valuation by the US FDA.
Gold has always been used as a hedge against financial and political instability. Similarly, it can be used as the material of choice in LFA diagnostics because of its special properties and curb the spread of the coronavirus.