Researchers have developed a low-cost, portable laboratory on a smartphone that could lead to faster, accurate and lower-cost results for fast-moving viral and bacterial epidemics, especially in rural or lower-resource areas.
The device, which works nearly as well as clinical laboratories, could detect 12 common viral and bacterial infectious diseases, such as mumps, measles, herpes, and Lyme Disease, the researchers found.
“This smartphone reader has the potential to improve access and speed up healthcare delivery,” said lead author Lei Li, Assistant Professor at the Washington State University.
“If we find out about infections, we can treat them more quickly, which makes a difference especially in low-resource, remote areas,” Li added, in the paper published in the journal Clinica Chimica Acta.
The researchers tested the device, which is about the size of a hand, with 771 patient samples at Hospital of University of Pennsylvania and found that it provided false positives only about one per cent of the time.
The smartphone reader, which includes a portable device, takes a photo of 96 sample wells at once and uses a computer program to carefully analyse colour to determine positive or negative results.
Buying the components themselves, the research team was able to build the device for about $50, but the manufacturing cost would probably be lower than that, Li said.
The team has filed a patent and hope to move forward with clinical trials that could lead to commercialisation.