As we enter the cold and flu season, the presence of a fever and sore throat has many individuals questioning if they have COVID-19, the flu or just a cold. An MSOE senior design team is working on making it easier to answer that question by developing an over-the-counter test that will check for both COVID-19 and influenza.

Team Argus is comprised of biomolecular engineering seniors Rebekah Bartels, Benjamin Bruckert, Brian Chavez and Steven Imp and advised by Drs. Eryn Hassemer and Gul Afshan, Physics and Chemistry Department. The team was inspired to create a test to provide clarity and keep the community safe.

“Our goal for this project is to create a product that can safely, accurately and quickly detect and differentiate COVID-19 from influenza,” explained Bartels. “COVID-19 and influenza are both respiratory diseases and can display similar symptoms to each other, even though their severities are much different. Our design hopes to give clarity as to whether someone has one, both or neither of the diseases.”

So far, the team has conducted research for their project and will begin testing different subparts of their design to ensure everything works. “In the laboratory we will be performing a series of 10 different tests for our test kit, which will take lots of time and patience to perform. We are doing several adhesion tests to ensure our materials stick to the surface we are using, as well as several tests to ensure our materials bind to each other to give the correct results for each user.”

The science behind the dual at-home-test is very similar to at-home pregnancy tests. The COVID/influenza test is saliva based, so users will spit into a vial which will then be transferred to test strips. “If the compound of interest (COVID-19 or the flu) is in the sample, it binds to a colored antibody on the test strip,” said Bartels. “This antibody is carried along the membrane by the sample flow. Another antibody is bound to the membrane that detects the compound of interest. If it is detected, it makes a colored line on the strip that can be seen by the naked eye. The test is easy to use and requires no equipment!”

By the end of the academic school year, the team hopes to have a working prototype for their design. They also hope to have data that could be used to optimize the tests. “Although this project is just in its very early stages, we hope that the idea will influence more research towards this type of testing methodology. Our team also hopes to get sponsored by a larger entity that can turn this idea into a product that could be available at every commercial drugstore.”

As with any research project, this project will require trial, error and supplies to perform their necessary tests. To fund their project’s costs, Team Argus set up a crowdfunding page with a fundraising goal of $2,500. “The money will be spent on supplies that our team needs to perform necessary tests. These supplies include antibodies, specific proteins and other reagents.”

If you would like to learn more about their project or make a donation to help fund their research, visit together.mwmf.net.