COVID-19 Or The Flu? A Sensor In The Works Could Tell The Difference. Why It Matters.

Texas researchers hope the test will be available by the fall or early winter.

By Laura RiceJune 29, 2020 12:59 pm, ,

Experts have long predicted that a so-called “second wave” of the coronavirus could hit in the fall. That is especially concerning because, if that happens, it would coincide with the regular flu season.

COVID-19 and what we know simply as “the flu” are both respiratory diseases that present with many of the same symptoms. But they are different. For one thing, COVID-19 is more deadly. And knowing the difference quickly could change a treatment plan.

University of Texas at Austin electrical and computer engineering postdoctoral fellow Dimitry Kireev is part of a team working on a sensor to test for both illnesses at the same time.

“Imagine if you got symptoms and you don’t know – is it flu or is it COVID? Do you self-isolate yourself for 14 days? Do you go to work? What do you do?” Kireev said.

Kireev and his sponsor, UT-Austin Engineering Professor Deji Akinwande, are working with UT-Austin Molecular Biosciences Professor Andy Ellington on the project. The team is hopeful its sensor could relieve some of the pressure on current testing equipment as well as medical personnel. The plan is to have the sensors available for consumer purchase at pharmacies such as Walgreens.

“You can have it at home, you develop the symptoms, and just simply do a test,” Kireev said.

Kireev and his team are working to try to get the test ready for market by the fall or winter.

“It is tough to predict when exactly it will be ready, but we are optimistic that it should be done by the end of the year,” Kireev said.

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