Optical Biosensors for Virus Detection: Prospects for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19

Hemanth Maddali, Catherine E. Miles, Joachim Kohn, Deirdre M. O'Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


The recent pandemic of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused huge worldwide disruption due to the lack of available testing locations and equipment. The use of optical techniques for viral detection has flourished in the past 15 years, providing more reliable, inexpensive, and accurate detection methods. In the current minireview, optical phenomena including fluorescence, surface plasmons, surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), and colorimetry are discussed in the context of detecting virus pathogens. The sensitivity of a viral detection method can be dramatically improved by using materials that exhibit surface plasmons or SERS, but often this requires advanced instrumentation for detection. Although fluorescence and colorimetry lack high sensitivity, they show promise as point-of-care diagnostics because of their relatively less complicated instrumentation, ease of use, lower costs, and the fact that they do not require nucleic acid amplification. The advantages and disadvantages of each optical detection method are presented, and prospects for applying optical biosensors in COVID-19 detection are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1176-1189
Number of pages14
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 6 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Organic Chemistry


  • COVID-19
  • colorimetry
  • fluorescence
  • optical biosensors
  • plasmons
  • virus detection


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