Researchers at Livermore, California's Sandia National Laboratories have created a process that could allow health workers to quickly diagnose the mosquito-born viruses Zika, dengue, and chikungunya - with a smartphone.
The team created what it calls the LAMP box, which combines new biochemical agents for processing samples taken in the field, a 3D-printed sample holder, smartphone-compatible light filters, and an app that controls the phone's camera and reads the sample. The system, which costs around $100, can detect RNA from the three viruses in body fluids, like blood or urine, in about half an hour and for less than $20 per test.
Sandia says its technology is radically quicker, cheaper, and easier than the current standard for genetic testing, a system called polymerase chain reaction, which requires equipment costing up to $20,000, a steady supply of plug-in electricity, and a lengthy period of time to process biological samples in a laboratory.
Robert Meagher, a chemical engineer at Sandia, said the LAMP box prototype must undergo several years of clinical trials before being sold on the market.