Published 8/18/20 by the University of Maryland School of Public Health

Hongjie Liu
Professor Hongjie Liu is chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a co-principal investigator on the development of a rapid point-of-care test for SARS-CoV-2.

The FDA has issued several novel coronavirus tests, but the tests are often time-consuming and sometimes inaccurate— failing to meet the urgent need to quickly identify and isolate infected people.

To address this, Dr. Hongjie Liu (University of Maryland School of Public Health) and Dr. Feng Jiang (University of Maryland School of Medicine) have set to work to create a rapid, point-of-care test— like a pregnancy test— that could have accurate results back within 15-30 minutes. The test could even be taken at home, as a person only needs to spit on a strip of paper.  

Previously, the research team has developed a rapid, point-of-contact test to detect human papillomavirus in blood. 

“One of the challenges in preventing onward transmission of the virus is the lock of a simple, rapid, and affordable test,” said Epidemiology Professor Hongjie Liu, a key investigator on the project. “Without a rapid test, it is almost impossible to early identify infected cases and isolate them from the community.”

Currently, most COVID-19 tests take a nasal sample. But, Liu says, if the virus is in your lower respiratory tract, the test would not capture the virus. Lower respiratory tract samples have higher SARS-CoV-2 loads than the upper respiratory tract, something that Liu’s co-investigator Dr. Feng Jiang has found in his studies. 

“In our test, we use sputum, which comes from your lower respiratory tract,” Liu said. 

Liu, Jiang and their co-investigators have received a $100,000 seed grant from the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the State to work on the test for one year. After the first phase, researchers will request Emergency Use Authorization to implement the test and help meet the urgent need for instantaneous testing.Related PeopleHongjie Liu