Researchers at the University of Surrey found that non-invasive skin swab samples may be sufficient to detect COVID-19.
The most widely used method of testing for COVID-19 requires the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which involves taking a swab from the back of the throat and the inside of the nose.
In a published paper Lancet II Clinical Medicine, Chemists from Surrey teamed up with Frimley NHS Trust and the University of Manchester and Leicester to collect sebum samples from 67 hospitalized patients – 30 who tested positive for COVID-19 and 37 who tested negative. Samples were collected by scanning an area of skin rich in lipids – a waxy oily substance produced by the body’s sebaceous glands – such as the face, neck or back.
The researchers analyzed the samples using liquid color mass spectrometry and a statistical modeling technique called partial least squares – discriminative analysis to distinguish between positive and negative samples for COVID-19.
Surrey’s team then found that patients who had a positive COVID-19 test had lower lipid levels – or dyslipidemia – than their counterparts who had a negative test. The accuracy of the study results increased even more when the additional medications and health conditions were controlled.
Dr Melanie Bailey, co-author of the study from the University of Surrey, said:
“Unfortunately, the specter of future pandemics is firmly high on the agenda of the scientific community. Our study indicates that we may be able to use non-invasive means to test diseases like COVID-19 in the future – a development that I am sure everyone will welcome.”
Matt Speck, co-author of the study from the University of Surrey, said:
“COVID-19 damages many areas of metabolism. In this work, we show that skin fat can be added to the list, which may have implications for skin barrier function, as well as being a detectable symptom of the disease itself.”
Dr. George Evitz, Consultant Anesthesiology and Intensive Care at Frimley Park Hospital, said:
“The search for new methods of diagnosing and monitoring a new disease like COVID-19 that has had such a devastating impact on the world is vital. Lipid sampling is a simple, non-invasive method that shows promising results for diagnosing and monitoring disease in both health and non-health care.
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