Aptamer-based nanointerferometer enables amplification-free ultrasensitive detection and differentiation of SARS-CoV-2 variants

Changtian Chen, Xiaohui Song, Yuanling Yu,Xingwei Wang,Hua Xu, Weiwei Ji, Jingchen Ma,Chenyan Zhao, Silu Feng,Youchun Wang,Xiao-dong Su,Wei Wang

Analytica Chimica Acta(2023)

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The state-of-the-art SARS-CoV-2 detection methods include qRT-PCR and antibody-based lateral flow assay (LFA) point-of-care tests. Despite the high sensitivity and selectivity, qRT-PCR is slow, expensive and needs well-trained operators. On the other extreme, LFA suffers from low sensitivity albeit its fast detection speed, low detection cost and ease of use. Therefore, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic calls for a SARS-CoV-2 detection method that is rapid, convenient and cost-effective without compromise in sensitivity. Here we provide a proof-of-principle demonstration of an optimized aptamer-based nanointerferometer that enables rapid and amplification-free detection of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-coated pseudovirus directly from human saliva with the limit of detection (LOD) of about 400 copies per mL. This LOD is on par with that of qRT-PCR, making it 1000 to 100,000-fold more sensitive than commercial LFA tests. Using various combinations of negative selections during the screens for the aptamer targeting the receptor binding domain of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, we isolated two aptamers that can distinguish the Omicron and Delta variants. Integrating these two aptamers with LFA strips or the nanointerferometer sensors allows both detection and differentiation of the Omicron and Delta variants which has the potential to realize rapid triage of patients infected different SARS-CoV-2 variants.
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