Surface enhanced Raman scattering nanoprobe assay for multiplexed recent and past SARS-CoV-2 infection.

SERS-4-SARS aims to develop smart nanoparticles based on the effect of surface
enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 virions and
antibodies against them.


The virus SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent for COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 19) and has eluded efforts of control worldwide. Multiple countries have instituted moderate to severe non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) heavily focused around social distancing strategies to contain viral outbreaks. While necessary, these strategies have adverse social, health and economic effects and are only sustainable for limited time periods. 
 In order to reopen economies, improved testing capacities and strategies are required to limit anticipated disease flare ups.
Current testing methodologies are limited to inferring the pathogen’s presence in nasopharyngeal swab samples via detection of the viral RNA. However, as the pandemic progresses, direct virus detection and serological testing for antibodies against the virus will became important as an indicator of infection and individual or community susceptibility. 


Our project’s goal is to develop a multiplexed assay that will provide extremely specific and sensitive detection of virus particles and corresponding antibodies in biofluid samples. SERS nanoparticles, upon excitation with a laser, provide a distinct spectrum (fingerprint) that can identify them uniquely and provide a quantitative result. The newest generation of these probes have up to femtomolar sensitivity and can be functionalized to bind a wide variety of biomolecules including viral antigens or antibodies. SERS NPs can be synthesized with different reporter molecules, each with its own distinct spectrum. This allows identification of a variety of probes via spectral unmixing and enables multiplexed detection.  SERS-4-SARS is developing bright spectroscopically distinct nanoparticles that mimic the outer shell of the virus, or its target receptor. These nanoparticles are of similar size with the virions, and can interact directly with them, to provide a quantitative count of viral and antibody loads from biofluids.  

The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration, between the Nanotechnology Imaging and Detection Laboratory (ECE department, Emphasis) and the Tumor Viruses and Cancer Laboratory (Biology department).

The project CONCEPT-COVID/0420/0018 is funded by the Cyprus Research and Innovation Foundation.