Portable detector developed to identify pathogens in minutes
University of Illinois researchers developed an inexpensive and rapid smartphone-based pathogen testing device designed to ease pressure on testing laboratories during pandemics such as COVID-19.
Most viral test kits rely on labor- and time-intensive laboratory preparation and analysis techniques; for example, tests for the novel coronavirus can take days to detect the virus from nasal swabs. Now, researchers have demonstrated an inexpensive yet sensitive smartphone-based testing device for viral and bacterial pathogens that takes about 30 minutes to complete. The smartphone accessory, which costs roughly $50, could reduce the pressure on testing laboratories during a pandemic such as COVID-19.
There are a few preparatory steps currently performed outside of the device, and the team is working on a cartridge that has all of the reagents needed to be a fully integrated system. Other researchers are using the novel coronavirus genome to create a mobile test for COVID-19, and making an easily manufactured cartridge that Cunningham said would improve testing efforts.
The results of the new multi-institutional study, led by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign electrical and computer engineering professor Brian Cunningham and bioengineering professor Rashid Bashir, are reported in the journal Lab on a Chip.
“The challenges associated with rapid pathogen testing contribute to a lot of uncertainty regarding which individuals are quarantined and a whole host of other health and economic issues,” Cunningham said.
A photo of the first PathTracker clip-on box. Courtesy: Prof. Brian Cunningham, University of Illinois[/caption]
“This test can be performed rapidly on passengers before getting on a flight, on people going to a theme park or before events like a conference or concert,” Cunningham said. “Cloud computing via a smartphone application could allow a negative test result to be registered with event organizers or as part of a boarding pass for a flight. Or, a person in quarantine could give themselves daily tests, register the results with a doctor, and then know when it’s safe to come out and rejoin society.”
– Edited by Chris Vavra, associate editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, email@example.com.