New test for fast tracking of Corona

Thursday 07 May 20
by Tom Nervil


Yi Sun
Groupleader, Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 26 67 39 98


Mohsen Mohammadniaei
DTU Health Tech


PlasmonDetect is a quick test where the mucous membrane in the nose is swabbed with a sterile cotton bud. The cotton bud is then inserted into a special liquid, which changes colour if COVID-19 is present. The test takes roughly 30 minutes.

The project is supported by EIT Health under “COVID-19 Rapid Response”

The total budget is 490,612 EUR. The period is from 1 May 2020 to 31 December 2020.

The 4 project partners are:

  • DTU Health Tech
  • Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital
  • Hvidovre Hospital
  • PentaBase A/S.

In many countries, Corona virus tests are limited by infrastructure and test facilities, and consequently only serious cases are tested. This gives an unclear picture of the spread of the disease. A new type of test from DTU will change this.

One of the critical factors in handling the spread of COVID-19 is massive testing of the population. Therefore a fast test, which can be conducted locally and without elaborate facilities could make a real difference.

In order to address these disadvantages in the present standard tests, DTU, Bispebjerg Hospital, Frederiksberg Hospital, Hvidovre Hospital and the Danish company PentaBase are developing PlasmonDetect, which is a new molecular diagnostic technology for fast detection of SARS-CoV-2.

“Plasmonic string-displacement amplification (PSDA) assay” is a colorimetric method based on a unique combination of molecular structures and gold nano particles. The technology uses the latest knowledge within molecular biology and nanotechnology and is able to detect viral RNA with high specificity, efficiency and speed, at room temperature”, Associate Professor at DTU Health Yi Sun says.

This method makes it possible for PlasmonDetect to test for COVID-19 in a simpler and faster way, closer to the patient, already by the end of the year.


“We think that the device free technology will be a valuable tool for the testing of patients that are hospitalised and patients, who are to undergo procedures with a high risk of spreading the disease. This will support our abilities to isolate patients who are tested positive and avoid isolating a larger group of patients that are tested negative”, says Kirsten Wisborg, the vice director responsible for research at Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital.


Lower costs

"We think that the device free technology will be a valuable tool for the testing of patients that are hospitalised"
Kirsten Wisborg

The PSDA assay is practical and cost efficient because it is device free and does not use expensive enzymes and fluorescent marking. The analysis can be delivered in doctors’ offices, emergency units, emergency clinics and other places of limited resources. Researchers expect the new method to save both time and resources in connection with transportation and analysis, reduce the pressure on central laboratories and make it possible for more people to be tested. Such a fast, diagnostic technique will increase the efficiency of society’s reaction to the pandemic significantly.



The PlasmonDetect project is supported by EIT Health.

Standard test

The current standard method endorsed by ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) and the World Health Organisation, WHO, is called quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). This type of test demands well equipped laboratory facilities, highly qualified technologies and several reagents. Due to the limits on infrastructure and the lack of supplies, the demand for test capacity in both the EU and the world is rapidly growing.

Since the number of affected people continue to rise, most countries need to stop testing mild cases and instead concentrate on the more vulnerable patients, healthcare workers and patients that need to be hospitalised. In many cases this strategy leads to a delayed diagnoses and treatment and gives limited information about the number of effected. It will have negative influence on the individual countries’ strategies and initiatives.

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