A team of researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara has designed a system that can perform COVID-19 testing using a smartphone camera, an accompanying app, and test kits. According to Gizmodo, this system is only one-tenth of the price of a PCR test and is much more accurate. The whole system is called “smaRT-LAMP” and an accompanying app is called “Bacticount“.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) has overlapping symptoms with other respiratory pathogens, such as influenza, which each require different treatment strategies. Further, antigen-based testing kits have limited accuracy, and the more reliable PCR nucleic acid tests are expensive and time-consuming. With the Bacticount app and a new nucleic acid testing method, saliva specimens can now be tested for COVID-19 and influenza in about half an hour using a smartphone, for $7(USD) per sample,” reads Bacticount’s website.
The kit required to run the app consists of a dish to hold the mixture of a saliva sample, a hot plate, LED lights, and a formulated mix of chemicals that contains a fluorescent dye, that sparkles in response to chemical reactions.
As far as the procedure for the testing is concerned, a saliva sample is mixed with a chemical solution and placed in the dish. Then the dish having this mixture is heated on a hot plate. The accompanying smartphone app is then programmed to utilize the device’s camera to capture the photos after every 10 seconds while the test is underway to examine the results. A smartphone camera can see into the top of the dish and determine the color reactions indicative of whether or not the samples test positive for COVID-19.
The test was performed by the researchers with a small sample size of only 50 patients. Still, the research team believes that it can compete with the PCR tests found today in doctor’s offices. Scientists have claimed that the process can be modified to deal with the other COVID-19 variants. It currently works with Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphones.