US researchers develop low-cost smartphone-based COVID diagnostic tool; Know the details

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As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world, researchers in the United States have developed a low-cost smartphone-based COVID-19 diagnostic tool. The tool combines the speed of over-the-counter antigen testing with the accuracy of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

According to the researchers, the “Harmony” COVID-19 test developed at the University of Washington detects the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The researchers claimed that standard PCR tests can take several hours, while the Harmony kit can offer results in 20 minutes for some samples with equivalent accuracy.

Professor Bary Lutz of the University of Washington said the test was designed to be inexpensive and simple enough to use anywhere. “We hope the low cost will make high performance testing more accessible locally and globally,” said Lutz, lead author of the research paper published in the journal. Scientists progress.

Using a compact and inexpensive detector, the test uses a “PCR-like” method to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome in a nasal swab sample, the researchers explained. . According to the researchers, the detector is activated and the results are read using a smartphone.

Low-cost detector can process up to four samples at once

The researchers further stated that the detector can process up to four samples at a time and is small enough to fit in the glove compartment of a standard car. Many home COVID-19 antigen kits, which detect protein fragments of the virus rather than its genetic material, are 80-85% accurate, they said.

The accuracy of antigen kits can be affected by the Omicron variant, which has a large number of undetected mutations in other strains. Meanwhile, PCR tests usually give 95% accurate results, but they are a bit expensive and time-consuming.

The Harmony kit is 97% accurate for nasal swabs: Research

According to the researchers, preliminary data reveals that the Harmony kit is 97% accurate for nasal swabs. Three distinct regions of the virus genome are detected by the Harmony kit. Even if a new variant contains many mutations in one region, the new test can still detect the other two, they noted.

The research team has also approached a new company – Anavasi Diagnostics – to develop the Harmony prototype kit into a product and scale up production to help alleviate the current shortage of COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

(With entries from PTI, Image: Shutterstock)

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