Researchers at the University of Arizona are at work developing a smartphone test that can detect COVID-19. The test is cheaper than many other COVID test options available, and can deliver results in about 10 minutes. The test uses a smartphone microscope to analyze saliva samples.
Ultimately, the research team is hoping to combine the speed of existing nasal swab antigen tests with the high accuracy of nasal swab PCR. This test can bring almost instantaneous results, giving test takers quicker answers and peace of mind with the knowledge of a diagnosis so they can make decisions in a more timely manner.
This smartphone based test just needs three things to deliver results: a smartphone, a microscope and a piece of microfluidic paper (wax-coated paper that guides the liquid sample through specific channels). It is smaller and cheaper than other traditional methods of testing for norovirus and coronavirus (which are most often sent to a lab for analysis).
The initial research was published last week, and now the team plans to continue their research into this testing option. The team, which is based at UA, will partner with campus testing facilities to continue working on their testing method as it is adapted for COVID-19 detection. They are awaiting university approval for students being tested on campus to have the option to provide consent for their test sample to be run through both traditional methods and the new smartphone testing device.
Eventually, these researchers want to distribute the smartphone based testing device across campus so that the average person (dorm resident assistants, department heads, etc.) could test saliva samples from groups of people as necessary. This test doesn’t require specialized training, so just about anyone can perform the test and get results quickly.
What this means is that more people can be tested and receive their results faster, so outbreaks on the UA campus (and potentially around the country or even the world) can be caught and stopped before they become huge issues for the campus.