New smartphone app may detect Zika, dengue in 30 minutes
Researchers including one of Indian origin have developed a new smartphone-controlled, battery-operated diagnostic device that costs just $100 and can detect Zika, dengue and chikungunya within 30 minutes.
Testing for these mosquito-borne viruses currently requires a laboratory and patients have to wait days for results.
The tests require instruments that are roughly the size of a microwave oven and can cost up to $20,000. This makes rapid testing unrealistic for limited-resource clinics in developing countries where the viruses are prevalent.
"In addition to creating an app that serves as a simple interface to operate the device, we were able to adapt smartphone camera sensors to replace traditional laboratory sample analysis tools, allowing for unprecedented mobility," said Aashish Priye from Sandia National Laboratories in the US.
The device is based on the loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) diagnostic method, which eliminates the need to process a biological sample, such as blood or urine, before testing.
Conventional viral testing involves transporting a sample to a laboratory, extracting DNA or RNA from it and then multiplying the genetic materials through a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Like PCR, LAMP copies viral DNA/RNA, but without the heating and cooling cycle, a heavy-duty power source is not needed.
The addition of a few carefully designed biochemical agents allows a LAMP box to test a sample that is heated only once to 65 degrees Celsius for half an hour.