Known as ‘Electro-chemical LAMP’ (eLAMP), the device converts the output of a PCR-like test called LAMP into a simple electric current. According to the Surrey team, the electrochemical test is compact and work is already underway to shrink it to memory-stick size. Paired with a smartphone app, this would enable testing to be performed at home, with results automatically sent to health services to help monitor the spread of infection. The work is published in iScience.
"A key lesson we took from the COVID-19 pandemic is how crucial rapid, effective and cheap diagnostic tools that can be used at home are to monitoring and containing infectious diseases,” said research lead Johnjoe McFadden, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey.
“Our test meets these criteria and can detect lower amounts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus compared to other home-based tests. We are looking for commercial partners to further develop the test and take it to market."
As part of the study, researchers tested human blood and saliva, as well as swabs from the nose and throat. It was found that their test had a 93.33 per cent detection accuracy rate. According to the team, the test also performs well at room temperature, with the ability to bring up results in 45 minutes. It is hoped that the technology can play a role in tracking the continued progress of diseases such as COVID (SARS-CoV-2) as well as the emergence of potential new pandemic threats.
"SARS-CoV-2 is likely to be around for a long time and, unfortunately, new difficult viruses are likely to emerge,” said the University of Surrey’s Dr Khushboo Borah Slater, co-author on the study.
“It's crucial to keep working on better ways to test for the coronavirus, and our goal is to further develop our test so that it can be easily used everywhere to help control the disease and prevent future outbreaks."