COVID-19 Test Made from Gold


BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— More than 33,000 Americans have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, but it can still take anywhere from several days to a week before results are available. Researchers have now developed a COVID-19 test where the results are ready within minutes and one of the key materials scientists are using may be worth its weight in gold.

In the ever-changing environment surrounding COVID-19, can you trust the test you’re taking is giving you the right results?

Dipanjan Pan, PhD, professor of diagnostic radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine explained to Ivanhoe, “Most of the times these tests are not really accurate and cannot detect virus at very early stage.”

(Read Full Interview)

Many current tests can’t detect the virus until several days after infection, meaning the result could be a false negative. In fact, early studies show false negatives could be as high as 30 percent. Pan and his colleagues have developed an experimental rapid diagnostic test containing plasmonic gold nanoparticles.

Pan shared, “Why are we interested in gold? Gold is unique.”

Pan says that’s because gold can reflect light. Here’s how it works: the test requires a nasal or saliva swab, then the sample is combined with a liquid mixed with gold nanoparticles. Those particles are attached to a molecule that can detect if a protein in the COVID-19 virus is present.

“They come close to each other. It’s like a rush of gold coming together. The color changes from purple to blue and that is immediately being detected by the naked eye,” illustrated Pan.

Blue means the virus is present. Results would be visible in ten minutes, without needing a special lab or equipment to run the test.

Pan and his team are planning to meet with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the next month to discuss getting an emergency use authorization for the test, meaning the usual clearance process would be waived. The team does need to demonstrate to the FDA that their method produces reliable results. So far, the scientists say early results have been very promising.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: COVID-19 tests help measure the spread of the disease and determine how to handle the pandemic. There are currently two types of COVID-19 tests, serology tests and viral tests. Each serve different purposes and have different limitations. A serology test is a blood test that looks for evidence of someone’s prior infection with the virus, whereas a viral test is an oral or nasal swab or saliva test that looks for evidence of an active viral infection. There is a PCR viral test and an antigen viral test. The serology test provides evidence that someone may have been exposed to the virus in the past by detecting antibodies specific to the virus. PCR viral tests look for the presence of a virus’s genetic material, while antigen viral tests look for specific proteins on a virus’s surface. A serology test does not diagnose an active infection or identify who is protected from reinfection, and viral tests do not indicate whether someone was infected in the past.


ACCURACY OF CORONA TESTS: The most common tests used to diagnose an infection with coronavirus are almost 100 percent effective if administered correctly. However, tests to determine if you’ve already had the disease and developed antibodies are not 100 percent effective. Experts say diagnostic testing is one of the most powerful health tools for fighting the spread of the coronavirus. They identify people who may need treatment. Results also trace those who have been in contact with other individuals to help prevent the transmission of the disease further. This can assist epidemiologists in determining how widely the virus has spread. “Testing makes the enemy visible,” said Dr. Emily Volk, an assistant professor of pathology at the University of Texas-Health in San Antonio and president-elect of the College of American Pathologists (CAP).


NEW RAPID COVID-19 TEST: University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) scientists have developed an experimental diagnostic test for COVID-19 that can detect the presence of the virus in 10 minutes. It uses a simple assay containing plasmonic gold nanoparticles to detect color change when the virus is present. The use of any advanced laboratory techniques is not required, such as those commonly used to amplify DNA, for analysis. “Based on our preliminary results, we believe this promising new test may detect RNA material from the virus as early as the first day of infection. Additional studies are needed, however, to confirm whether this is indeed the case,” said study leader Dipanjan Pan, PhD, Professor of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and Pediatrics at the UMSOM. The test uses a highly specific molecule attached to the gold nanoparticles to detect a particular protein. This protein is part of the genetic sequence that is unique to the novel coronavirus.




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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Dipanjan Pan, PhD, professor of diagnostic radiology

Read the entire Q&A