A recently published study in iScience describes a new molecular diagnostic test for bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. The University of Surrey scientists developed the test as they warn that the world needs to be prepared for the next pandemic.
The research team, led by Johnjoe McFadden, PhD, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Surrey, has developed and called the test electrochemical LAMP or eLAMP. It is affordable, rapid, sensitive, and can be performed at home, in a GP surgery, or in a medical laboratory. eLAMP has the sensitivity of PCR-based tests but when connected to a smartphone could be performed at home.
eLAMP converts the output of a PCR-like test, called LAMP, into a simple electric current. This electrochemical test device is compact: Scientists are exploring its potential to be further miniaturized into a simple memory-stick-sized device that could be operated by anyone with an app. This would allow the test to be performed at home and the result to be instantly sent to health services to monitor the spread of infection, while also providing the patient with immediate advice.
McFadden, who is also the corresponding author of the study said: “A key lesson we took from the COVID-19 pandemic is how crucial rapid, effective, and cheap diagnostic tools that can be used at home are to monitoring and containing infectious diseases. Our test meets these criteria and can detect lower amounts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus compared to other home-based tests. We are looking for commercial partners to further develop the test and take it to market."
eLAMP tested on various samples
Researchers tested human blood, saliva, and swabs from the nose and throat. They found that their test had a 93.33 percent detection accuracy rate. The test also performs well at room temperature and generates results in 45 minutes.
In March 2020, the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 had become a global pandemic. Since then, nearly six million people have died, and around two million new cases are reported worldwide every day. The virus mostly affects people's lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing, fever, and trouble breathing. In severe cases, it can lead to heart problems and failure of other organs. The virus spreads through the air and by close contact with infected people.
Khushboo Borah Slater, BTech, DPhil, a research fellow at the University of Surrey and a co-author of the study said: "SARS-CoV-2 is likely to be around for a long time and, unfortunately, new difficult viruses are likely to emerge. It's crucial to keep working on better ways to test for the coronavirus, and our goal is to further develop our test so that it can be easily used everywhere to help control the disease and prevent future outbreaks."
- This press release was originally published on the University of Surrey website