The latest champion in the fight against COVID-19 is, you guessed it, coffee. No, despite all evidence to the healthfulness of coffee, drinking it hasn’t been proven to keep you from contracting the coronavirus, but it may just help detect it.
Coffee has already been used as a sort of rudimentary COVID test; if you take a big whiff of coffee, which has a smell, and you don’t get anything, you may have COVID, which can limit your ability to taste and smell. It’s a little homespun and not exactly 100% accurate, but it’s cheap and better than nothing. Now, thanks to organic chemist Dr. Vittorio Saggiomo from Wageningen University & Research’s Bionanotechnology group in the Netherlands, coffee may be able to help identify coronavirus DNA sequences from genetic swabs.
As reported by The Conversation, the new test works similar to that of the PCR test, the gold standard in COVID testing, which finds even the smallest amount of virus RNA and converts it to DNA before replicating it over and over again until such that there is enough to be detected. But there are problems with the PCR test: it requires specialized equipment to perform a very exacting heating and cooling process to replicate the DNA, and thus it is also expensive. Saggiomo’s method uses coffee to skirt these issues (never underestimate Italian ingenuity when it comes to coffee).
Dubbed the CoroNaspresso Test for its use of Nespresso pods, Saggiomo’s test is a version of what is known as a loop-mediated isothermal amplification (Lamp). Like PCR tests, a Lamp will replicate DNA material, but a Lamp can do so using a fixed temperature—a very reasonable for home use 65°C (149°F). For the test, Saggiomo coated a vial of the genetic material in wax—a specific wax that melts at precisely 65°C such that it won’t transfer any heat above that mark, allowing it to remain temperature stable at 65°C—and then places it in a Nespresso pod. The pod then gets heated in a water bath from a regular stovetop oven. Once the test is completed, the contents of the vial will be one of two colors: red for a negative result and yellow for a positive.
Though the test has yet to be put through a rigorous scientific assessment, it was able to accurately assess whether or not six test participants had COVID—three did and three did not. Beyond the accuracy, though, the most exciting development is the cost. PCR tests can cost anywhere between $25 and $100, but the CoroNaspresso test is “cheap (about €0.20 [$.25 USD]), easy to make, easy to use and largely recyclable.”
So if you’ve got coffee pods sitting around the house collecting dust, maybe hold onto them. They may just come in handy.