The project

Controlling the spread of the coronavirus and the identification of infected people will be essential for our health and economic management in the near future.

The means to control this spread can be accurate but expensive and time consuming (such as PCR analysis), or fast but expensive and less reliable. In both cases, they depend on an international reactive market that is currently collapsed.

Using the near-infrared spectroscopy (Vis-NIRs) technique, it is possible to detect the COVID-19 disease in a pharynx exudate sample taken through the nose or throat with a cotton swab. This accurate, fast and economical technique offers the result in less than a minute using a device that does not require reagents, allowing us to perform hundreds of analyses daily.

Figure 1: Vis-NIR spectroscopy. A) Operating the equipment in reflectance on a liquid medium, B) Analysis of liquid samples in transmittance, detail of the quartz cuvette, C) Scheme of assembly of the equipment in reflectance, D) Appearance of the spectra of hypothetical substances, E) Example of the results after statistical analyses (preliminary treatments and PCA).

Objectives

The COVINIRs project main goal is to design and validate a fast and inexpensive method based on near-infrared visible-spectroscopy (Vis-NIRS) for the fast anamnesis / diagnosis of COVID-19.

Who we are

A team created by a public university and a private company (Rey Juan Carlos University – Boscalia Technologies S.L.), with years of experience in other applications of this technique, have altruistically begun a study in infected and uninfected samples with promising results. With the right means, this technique could be applied in a matter of months on a large scale.

For this we are counting on the collaboration of the Hospital Clínic de Valencia (through INCLIVA), Fundación Alcorcón, Gregorio Marañón and Rey Juan Carlos, the universities of Alcalá de Henares and Complutense de Madrid, the Generalitat Valenciana and equipment distributors such as JASCO Analitica Spain and BONSAI Advanced Technologies.

The research team is as follows:

  • Dra. Silvia Matesanz García
  • D. Manuel de Luque Ripoll

Forestry Engineer, Director of Boscalia Technologies S.L. and GEA Forestal. He is an expert in the design of innovative Vis-NIRS-based applications as well as the development of hardware equipment adapted to them. He has drafted and exercised the Technical Coordination of a European Project (SME Instrument, H2020) for the implementation of a Vis-NIR equipment adapted to measurements in wood and is currently coordinator of a project incubated by the European Space Agency to apply Vis-satellite remote sensing. NIR to the identification of tree species. He is in charge of the technical coordination of the team.

  • Dr. David Sánchez Pescador

Doctor of Science, post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Biology and Geology, Physics and Inorganic Chemistry, URJC and senior technician at TRAGSATEC. He is an expert in obtaining and interpreting Vis-NIRS spectra as well as in biostatistics and mathematical modeling of biological systems. It is in charge of the analysis and interpretation of the collected spectra.

  • Dña. Patricia Alonso Valiente

Graduate in Environmental Sciences, technician of the Biology laboratory, Department of Biology and Geology, Physics and Inorganic Chemistry, URJC. Experienced in the analysis of samples by Vis-NIRS and other techniques, she has been the promoter of this idea and of the URCJ-Boscalia group, she is dedicated both to the preparation of equipment and materials, and to the operation of the equipment to obtain the spectra.

  • Dr. Luis de Luque Ripoll

Doctor in Geological Sciences, Contracted Researcher, Department of History I and Philosophy, Area of Prehistory, University of Alcalá. He has extensive experience in applications of NIRS technology, both in the management and design of equipment, and in the development of predictive models. Coordinator of a European Project (SME Instrument, H2020) dedicated to the recognition of botanical species through NIRS, has participated in a Vis-NIR spectrometry project of the European call ESA-BIC, as well as carried out specialization courses in this technique ( University of Córdoba-SCAI). Participate as a technical advisor to the project.

  • Dr. Adrián Escudero Alcántara

Professor of Ecology, Department of Biology and Geology, Physics and Inorganic Chemistry, URJC. Doctor in Ecology. World expert in biostatistics and modeling of biological systems. He advises on experimental planning, as well as on the choice, application and interpretation of statistical techniques and mathematical models used to achieve the objectives.

The Technique: Near Visible-Infrared (Vis-Nirs) Spectroscopy

The near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS from now on) is a technique capable of recording the substance properties using energy pulses applied to a sample in the absorption spectrum that extends from the visible (780nm) to 2500nm (Figure 2). The applied light energy pulses penetrate through its surface causing the molecules vibration and then being scattered in all directions depending on the composition of the sample. The vibrations correspond to the different molecular bonds and reactive groups of the present substances. The spectra obtained in the near infrared range are complex and as characteristic of each sample as a fingerprint, which allows, through various statistical and modeling techniques, to relate them to their multiple components and properties. In the case of living beings, such fingerprint is directly correlated with the metabolome. This same technique is usually developed incorporating all or part of the visible spectrum (350 – 780nm), which improves the quality of the information in some analyses. In this case we are talking about Vis-NIRS.

Figure 2: Spectrum range VIS-NIR

The NIRS and Vis-NIRS are accurate and fast techniques with a low analysis cost that do not destroy or modify the properties of the sample. In this sense, the characteristics of both techniques allow a large number of analyses to be carried out in a very short period of time: less than 1 min from the introduction of the sample to obtaining the result, with a cost limited to that of the equipment itself and that of the technician who handles it. In addition, these are safe techniques for both the operator and the environment, since the sample does not require any previous processing or the use of chemical reagents, which generates minimal waste.