Rapid point-of-care detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA with smartphone-based upconversion luminescence diagnostics

Menglin Song, Man Chung Wong, Lihua Li, Feng Guo, Yuan Liu, Yingjing Ma, Xinyue Lao, Pui Wang, Honglin Chen, Mo Yang, Jianhua Hao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Accurate COVID-19 screening via molecular technologies is still hampered by bulky instrumentation, complicated procedure, high cost, lengthy testing time, and the need for specialized personnel. Herein, we develop point-of-care upconversion luminescence diagnostics (PULD), and a streamlined smartphone-based portable platform facilitated by a ready-to-use assay for rapid SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) gene testing. With the complementary oligo-modified upconversion nanoprobes and gold nanoprobes specifically hybridized with the target N gene, the luminescence resonance energy transfer effect leads to a quenching of fluorescence intensity that can be detected by the easy-to-use diagnostic system. A remarkable detection limit of 11.46 fM is achieved in this diagnostic platform without the need of target amplification, demonstrating high sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio of the assay. The capability of the developed PULD is further assessed by probing 9 RT-qPCR-validated SARS-CoV-2 variant clinical samples (B.1.1.529/Omicron) within 20 min, producing reliable diagnostic results consistent with those obtained from a standard fluorescence spectrometer. Importantly, PULD is capable of identifying the positive COVID-19 samples with superior sensitivity and specificity, making it a promising front-line tool for rapid, high-throughput screening and infection control of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114987
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Luminescence resonance energy transfer (LRET)
  • Point-of-care diagnostics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Upconversion nanoparticles
  • Viral RNA detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrochemistry


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