Researchers developing smartphone-based COVID-19 test

February 02, 2021 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
UArizona researchers image a sample using a smartphone microscope. Image courtesy of UArizona Biosensors Lab.
Inexpensive method analyzes saliva samples and smartphone microscope to deliver COVID-19 test results in about 10 minutes.

Researchers at the University of Arizona are developing a COVID-19 testing method that uses a smartphone microscope to analyze saliva samples and deliver results in about 10 minutes.

The UArizona research team, led by biomedical engineering professor Jeong-Yeol Yoon, aims to combine the speed of existing nasal swab antigen tests with the high accuracy of nasal swab PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests. The researchers are adapting an inexpensive method that they originally created to detect norovirus – the microbe famous for spreading on cruise ships – using a smartphone microscope.

They plan to use the method in conjunction with a saline swish-gargle test developed by Michael Worobey, head of the UArizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and associate director of the University of Arizona BIO5 Institute.

The team's latest research using water samples - done in collaboration with Kelly A. Reynolds, chair of the Department of Community, Environment and Policy in the UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health – is published in Nature Protocols.

"We've outlined it so that other scientists can basically repeat what we did and create a norovirus-detecting device," said Lane Breshears, a biomedical engineering doctoral student in Yoon's lab. "Our goal is that if you want to adapt it for something else, like we've adapted it for COVID-19, that you have all the ingredients you need to basically make your own device.”

Picture: 
UArizona researchers image a sample using a smartphone microscope. Image courtesy of UArizona Biosensors Lab.

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