Covid-19 pandemic has put immense stress on our healthcare infrastructure, which includes the labs that test thousands of people every day for potential infections. Most of these labs – or even the self testing kits – involve Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) or RT-PCR, which puts them out of reach of a lot of families, especially in the low income groups. But now, researchers are developing a new testing technique for Covid-19 that would make it possible for people, even in low income groups to test for a potential Covid-19 infection using their smartphones.
The new testing technique has been developed by the researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara and it needs equipment less than $100 initially. Once all the equipment is in place, each test costs only $7 (Rs 525 approximately), CNET reported.
How does this test work?
Users need simple equipment such as a hot plate, reactive solution and their smartphones to set up the testing kit. They also need to download a free app by the researchers called Bacticount on their smartphones. This app will analyse the data captured by the phone’s camera and notify the user if they have tested positive or negative for Covid-19.
According to paper titled ‘Assessment of a Smartphone-Based Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification Assay for Detection of SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza Viruses’ that was published on JAMA Network Open, users will have to place their saliva into a test kit that is placed on the hot plate. After this, users will have to add the reactive solution following which the colour of the liquid will change. Now, the app will estimate the amount of viral load in the saliva based on how quickly the colour of the liquid changes.
What’s interesting about the technique called Smart-LAMP (Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification) is that it can detect all the major five variants of Covid-19 infection – Alpha, B.1.1.7 (the UK variant); Gamma, P.1 (Brazil variant); Delta, B.1.617.2 (India variant); Epsilon, B.1.429 (CAL20C); and Iota, B.1.526 (New York variant).
But it’s not ready for deployment yet!
That said, the test isn’t ready for mass deployment yet as the researchers have tested the technique only with 50 patients consisting of 20 symptomatic and 30 asymptomatic patients and it has been calibrated for Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphones.
So, further research is needed to vet the technique. Simply said, don’t expect it to be available in the market anytime soon.