Could we soon have a home Covid test that uses coffee capsules?

Here at the Wholesale Coffee Company, we’ve always known how important coffee was – and not just for drinking. You can use the leftover grounds for anything from fertiliser to face scrub, and now, an organic chemist from the Bionanotechnology group at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands may have invested a way of using the humble coffee capsule in a home Covid test!

Like most of the rest of the world, Vittorio Saggiomo was confined to working at home when he made the discovery. Barred from using the normal resources of his laboratory he looked around for new materials for his research in making cheap, readily available home Covid tests – and his eye fell on his coffee pod machine.

Up to the present date there are two types of test readily available. One is the PCR test which looks for antibodies as evidence that your immune system has been exposed to the infection. These are very accurate, but have to be processed in a laboratory and as such are relatively time consuming and costly. The other type of test is the LFT or Lateral Flow Test, which looks for active infection in mucus or saliva. These are much quicker and cheaper, but also notoriously less accurate. The challenge to date has been to produce a test which is cheap both to manufacture and administer and made from materials readily available. This is the problem that Vittorio Saggimo may have overcome.

His breakthrough uses the already-known loop-mediated isothermal amplification method, which uses reaction tubes that work in a similar way to a PCR test but will also give a visual readout of a positive or negative result. He combined the reaction tubes with a special wax which would melt at a specific temperature, then looked around for the perfect housing material – coffee capsules! The resulting test has yet to be peer-reviewed, but has been successful in small-scale tests so far. The idea would be that people could test themselves at home and then heat the capsules to get a visual result quickly and easily. The tests would also be easy to make, and, as a bonus, largely recyclable.

While there is still much to do before this test could come to market, it looks like a promising start – we’re keeping our fingers crossed.