MIAMI – Florida International University (FIU) scientists have patented a new test that detects the presence of cocaine in another substance or in the human body in a few seconds, the Miami school said on Thursday.
To find the drug, investigators only need to add a liquid solution to the substance being examined, which, if it contains traces of cocaine, starts to glow under a blue light in a few seconds.
In the case of humans, the substance tested is a saliva sample, FIU said.
The test was developed by Yi Xiao, a professor of chemistry at FIU and her students in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, the university said.
Conventional tests for detecting cocaine in a person’s body “are more expensive, complicated and time consuming,” Yi said.
Law enforcement agencies must first obtain blood or urine samples to be tested in a laboratory, and the results usually take weeks, with many false positives and negative yields, the scientist said.
With the new test, “accurate results can be obtained within a fraction of time and at an affordable cost,” Yi said.
Whether applied on substances or saliva, the test developed by Yi and her students yield outcomes in one step without requiring expensive equipment or laboratory-based services.
The federal government has declared a national health emergency in the face of an opioid epidemic that is causing hundreds of deaths, and “there is a worry that cocaine use might be on the rise for the first time in a decade,” FIU said.
A recent State Department report cites growing cocaine production in Colombia and a rise in cocaine seizures along the US border with Mexico.
FIU researchers are now working to license and commercialize the test.