UA researchers working on smartphone test for COVID-19

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Posted at 10:01 AM, Jan 29, 2021

TUCSON, AZ — The University of Arizona says researchers are developing a coronavirus test that can be analyzed with a smartphone.

According to a media release Friday, a team from the university is working to "combine the speed of existing nasal swab antigen tests with the high accuracy of nasal swab PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests."

The method is expected to be inexpensive and utilizes a method originally created to detect coronavirus with a smartphone microscope.

UArizona says the test device would be cheaper than other methods, costing about $45.

"The basis of the technology, described in a 2019 paper published in the journal ACS Omega, is relatively simple," a media release describes. "Users introduce antibodies with fluorescent beads to a potentially contaminated water sample. If enough particles of the pathogen are present in the sample, several antibodies attach to each pathogen particle. Under a microscope, the pathogen particles show up as little clumps of fluorescent beads, which the user can then count. The process – adding beads to the sample, soaking a piece of paper in the sample, then taking a smartphone photograph of it under a microscope and counting the beads – takes about 10 to 15 minutes. It's so simple that (professor Jeong-Yeol) Yoon says a nonscientist could learn how to do it by watching a brief video."

The method will be fine-tuned for COVID-19 and tested in partnership with testing facilities at UArizona.