Since COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, researchers have started coming up with new and better ways of carrying out COVID testing that is more convenient for the masses as well as provides accurate results. And now it seems like you can do a swab test and get the results from a COVID detecting app on your very own smartphone.
To overcome the barrier between long waiting times and reliable COVID-19 test results, Ping Wang, PhD and professor at the University of Pennsylvania along with her team has developed a rapid antigen test that is able to detect small loads of SARS-CoV-2 with sensitivity as high as a PCR test (polymerase chain reaction) and can give you the result within 15 minutes.
All you need to do is use your smartphone’s camera to photograph and measure the size and number of miniature, gas-filled bubbles called microbubbles in a chemical reaction using a patient’s nasal swab. The picture of the microbubbles can then be uploaded on the smartphone application which uses an algorithm to identify whether the number of microbubbles matches a positive or negative COVID-19 test result. To measure the accuracy of this method, Wang and her team validated the test with 372 clinical nasal swabs and found it was able to identify 97% of positive and negative swabs when compared to the PCR method.
If this technology becomes accessible to the public, it would be easier to facilitate wide-scale testing, as well as help infected people, isolate themselves before it’s too late. “With our test, you can rest assured that it has high consistency with a PCR test. You don’t have to wait for several days until your infection becomes more severe or take several repeated tests to know if you’re positive,” Wang said.
For the next step, Wang is working with the Penn Center for Innovation to seek partnerships to commercialize the technology and make it available to everyone as soon as possible.