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Detection of SARS-CoV-2 by plasmonic optical fibers and molecularly imprinted polymers
* 1 , 1 , 2 , 1 , 2 , 3 , 3 , 3 , 4 , 4 , 2 , 1
1  Department of Engineering, University of Campania L. Vanvitelli
2  Moresense srl
3  Operative Unit of Chemical-Clinical and Microbiological Analysis, San Luca Hospital, Usl Toscana Nord Ovest
4  UOC Chirurgia Generale, Ospedale Valtiberina, Usl Toscana Sud-Est
Academic Editor: Roger Narayan (registering DOI)

Following the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the demand for faster diagnostic systems has pushed research activities towards the development of innovative technologies for the detection of the virus through simple, fast and low-cost methods. However, the current diagnostic procedure relies on the molecular technique of Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), which is expensive and time-consuming.
Aiming at addressing this issue, a plasmonic biochemical sensor for SARS-CoV-2 was realized by combining a plasmonic plastic optical D-shaped fiber sensor with a brand-new kind of synthetic molecularly imprinted polymer (MIP) receptor. The synthetic MIP was properly designed for the molecular recognition of the Subunit 1 of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein.
Preliminary experimental results on the developed sensor were performed to test its effectiveness in binding the Subunit 1 of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein in different solutions. Afterwards, tests on the SARS-CoV-2 virions were carried on using nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs in UTM (universal transport medium) and physiological solution (0.9% NaCl). The results achieved were compared in the end with those obtained with RT-PCR.
According to these results, the proposed optical biochemical sensor proved to effectively determine SARS-CoV-2 virions in biological samples and with an even higher sensitivity than the RT-PCR one. Furthermore, a reasonably quick response time to the virus (about 10 minutes) was achieved.

Keywords: Surface Plasmon Resonance, plasmonic sensors, optical biochemical sensors, Molecularly imprinted Polymers, SARS-CoV-2