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Significant barriers to the diagnosis of latent and acute SARS-CoV-2 infection continue to hamper population-based screening efforts required to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the absence of effective antiviral therapeutics or vaccines. We report an aptamer-based SARS-CoV-2 salivary antigen assay employing only low-cost reagents ($3.20/test) and an off-the-shelf glucometer. The test was engineered around a glucometer as it is quantitative, easy to use, and the most prevalent piece of diagnostic equipment globally making the test highly scalable with an infrastructure that is already in place. Furthermore, many glucometers connect to smartphones providing an opportunity to integrate with contract tracing apps, medical providers, and electronic medical records. In clinical testing, the developed assay detected SARS-CoV-2 infection in patient saliva across a range of viral loads - as benchmarked by RT-qPCR - within one hour, with 100% sensitivity (positive percent agreement) and distinguished infected specimens from off-target antigens in uninfected controls with 100% specificity (negative percent agreement). We propose that this approach can provide an inexpensive, rapid, and accurate diagnostic for distributed screening of SARS-CoV-2 infection at scale.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program, a Career Award for Medical Scientists from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to A.F.C., and a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award to D.A.H. (ECCS-1454608).

Author Declarations

I confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.


The details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:

UCSD protocol #200477

All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.


I understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).


I have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable.


Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv