The demand for testing during the coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on medical centers around the world. As scientists work to simplify the process, a team in California has come up with a way to spot the virus using an ordinary cell phone camera. Using a special device attached to a regular smartphone, researchers say they can accurately test nasal swabs for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus causing COVID-19.
“Our study shows that we can do the detection part of this assay very quickly, making the measurement with mass-produced consumer electronics,” says Daniel Fletcher, a bioengineer at the University of California-Berkeley, in a media release. “We don’t need fancy laboratory equipment.” . . .
The study focused on testing the detector’s ability to work without needing gene amplification like the standard PCR tests do. For this reason, researchers spiked the nasal swabs with SARS-CoV-2 RNA. The team is now working on a solution that induces the same fluorescence from the virus even without a pure sample of it. Study authors say the fact their device doesn’t need the same amplification means the assay can quantify just how much of the virus is in a sample. . .
Believe it or not, the technology in your smartphone is likely better than some of the tools currently helping to detect COVID-19. Researchers say their fluorescence detector uses a laser to create the illumination and lens to collect light. After that, a standard phone is placed on top of the device.
“One takeaway is that the phone camera is ten times better than the plate reader in the lab,” Ott explains. “This is directly translatable to it being a better diagnosis reader.” (Read more from “Cell-Phone Cameras Can Detect Coronavirus? Scientists Explain How It’s Possible” HERE)