THD NewsDesk, Washington: Scientists have introduced a portable instrument for reading the results of COVID-19 tests on Sunday, 6th of September. The results can be read on a Smartphone in approximately 30 minutes.
This is an innovation that will enable the diagnosis of COVID-19 without tediously sending out samples to laboratories. The study published in the journal PNAS shows that it will not gridlock laboratory personnel and supplies. It will resolve the concern of delays in several parts of the world amidst the pandemic.
Rashid Bashir, University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign said, “if such a device and test were available, we could test for COVID-19 at public events, auditoriums, large gatherings and potentially even at home for self-testing.”
SARS-Cov-2 healthcare workers take a sample from patients with a long nasopharyngeal swab. The swab is submerged in a substance called viral transport media. The samples are scrutinized by extracting, isolating, and multiplying the viral genetic material. This is one of the longest and most common methods for testing the novel coronavirus.
Brain Cunningham, another co-author of the study added some details to the innovation. He explained, the Viral RNA multiplication process called, RT-PCR requires specialized pieces of equipment and efficient personnel. It necessarily needs a temperature fluctuation cycle.
The scientists used a simpler method to analyze viral transport media, called LAMP. It bypasses the RNA extraction and purification.
Anurup Ganguli, first author of the study said, “LAMP only needs one temperature – 65 C- so it gets much easier to control.”
He further added- “Also, LAMP works more robustly than PCR, especially when there are contaminants in the test sample. We can just briefly heat the sample, break open the virus, and detect the genetic sequence that specifically identifies SARS-CoV-2.”
When researchers compared both LAMP assay and PCR, they found the results compatible. Next, they documented the sensitivity and meticulousness of the LAMP test.
The scientists integrated the assay on a 3D- printed cartridge which occupies two input slots for syringes. One is for the sample containing viral transport media, the other for the LAMP chemicals. Once the components are injected, they react within the cartridge.
Bill King, Co-author of the study noted that “We use modern, high-speed additive manufacturing to make these cartridges. The entire thing can be quickly scaled up to hundreds of thousands of tests.”
The cartridge is then inserted into a handheld portable instrument with a heating chamber, which heats the cartridge to 65 degrees Celsius for the reaction to occur. Then a Smartphone cradle is placed for interpreting the results. After 30 minutes, in case of a positive result, fluorescent light will be emitted.
Cunningham` explained, “The reader illuminates the liquid compartments with light from blue LEDs, while the phone’s rear-facing camera records a movie of the green fluorescent light being generated”
The scientists are currently evaluating whether the assay would work with saliva samples to diminish the tediousness of nasopharyngeal swabs.
Innovation and technology have been combined to defeat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the last few months, the world has witnessed the most modern and efficient technological advancements for the prevention, detection, treatment of fatal infection. Meanwhile, this latest addition has given birth to new hopes.