Sensitive SARS-CoV-2 salivary antibody assays for clinical saline gargle samples using smartphone-based competitive particle immunoassay platforms

Yan Liang, Bailey C. Buchanan, Bradley Khanthaphixay, Avory Zhou, Grace Quirk, Michael Worobey, Jeong Yeol Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Antibody assay for SARS-CoV-2 has become increasingly important to track latent and asymptomatic infections, check the individual's immune status, and confirm vaccine efficacy and durability. However, current SARS-CoV-2 antibody assays require invasive blood collection, requiring a remote laboratory and a trained phlebotomist. Direct detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies from clinical saline gargle samples has been considered challenging due to the smaller number of antibodies in such specimens and the high limit of detection of currently available rapid tests. This work demonstrates simple and non-invasive methods for detecting SARS-CoV-2 salivary antibodies. Competitive particle immunoassays were developed on a paper microfluidic chip using the receptor-binding domain (RBD) antigens on spike proteins. Using a smartphone, they were monitored by counting the captured fluorescent particles or evaluating the capillary flow velocities. The limit of detection (LOD), cross-binding between alpha- and omicron-strains, and the effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) presence were investigated. LODs were 1–5 ng/mL in both 10% and 1% saliva. Clinical saline gargle samples were assayed using both methods, showing a statistical difference between virus-negative and virus-positive samples, although the assays targeted antibodies. Only a small number of virus-positive samples were antibody-negative. The high assay sensitivity detected a small number of antibodies developed even during the early phase of infections. Overall, this work demonstrates the ability to detect SARS-CoV-2 salivary IgG antibodies on simple, cost-effective, portable platforms towards mitigating SARS-CoV-2 and potentially other respiratory viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115221
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023


  • Capillary action
  • COVID-19
  • Omicron variant
  • Receptor-binding domain
  • Saline gargle
  • Smartphone-based fluorescence microscope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrochemistry


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