Quantum nanodiamonds can be used to increase the sensitivity of paper-based diagnostic tests. So, potentially, it is possible to detect diseases such as HIV earlier.

Paper tests work in the same way as pregnancy tests: a strip of paper is soaked in a liquid sample, and a color change or fluorescent signal indicates a positive result. This method is widely used to detect viruses from HIV to SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 tests are currently being tested across England. This way, you can get the result faster because you do not need to process tests in the laboratory.

New research has shown that inexpensive nanodiamonds can be used to determine, for example, the presence of the HIV marker. Such a test’s sensitivity will be many thousands of times higher than the sensitivity of gold nanoparticles, which are usually used in these tests.

The test will detect lower viral loads, which can detect the disease at an earlier stage. This is critical to reducing the risk of disease transmission and effectively treating it.

The research team is working to adopt the new technology for testing for COVID-19 in the coming months. The next key step will be to develop a portable device that can “read” the results. Now, this can only be done with a microscope.