Since the onset of the SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, healthcare systems across the globe have lacked the capacity to sufficiently contain the spread of the disease. A significant limitation to this effort is inadequate contact tracing; which relies on rapid and accurate diagnostic testing on a massive scale. In this regard, point-of-care (POC) assays that can provide rapid results and be delivered in low-income and resource-limited areas are particularly useful. Nucleic acid testing (NAT) such as loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) allows simple and accurate detection of viral genomes and is widely used in diagnostics of infectious diseases. However, these point-of-care assays generally rely on dedicated readout instruments that may not be readily available in all areas.
In a recent publication in Lab on a Chip, Sun et al. describe a smartphone-based LAMP assay for the detection of viral pathogens with low cost and widespread accessibility. The assay utilizes the camera and wireless communication technology widely available in mobile devices to diagnose and potentially report COVID-19 infections. This method would lower cost, improve accessibility, and facilitate contact tracing. The LAMP reaction takes place on a microfluidics chip where the DNA is amplified in the presence of EvaGreen® dye. The amplified DNA reacts with EvaGreen® dye to emit fluorescence, which is then filtered and detected by the rear-facing camera of a smartphone. The assay was validated using nasal swab samples collected from horses that were spiked with a clinically relevant concentration of equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV1). The assay correctly identified positive and negative horse nasal swab samples for EHV1 in as little as 30 minutes. The authors propose this assay could be used as a POC for the RNA virus SARS-CoV-2 with the inclusion of a reverse transcriptase in the LAMP reaction mix. By using mobile devices as a detection instrument, the authors envision that data collection can be seamlessly integrated with telemedicine platforms that facilitate epidemiology reporting of SARS-CoV-2.
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Sun, F., Ganguli, A., Nguyen, J., Brisbin, R., Shanmugam, K., Hirschberg, D. L., … Cunningham, B. T. (2020). Smartphone-Based Multiplex 30-minute Nucleic Acid Test of Live Virus from Nasal Swab Extract. Lab on a Chip. https://doi.org/10.1039/D0LC00304B