U.K. scientists develop ‘lab-in-a-backpack’ to offer fast, affordable COVID-19 testing

U.K. researchers have developed a COVID-19 testing lab that fits into a backpack, which they say could offer low income nations and remote communities a more affordable and accessible method for detecting the virus.

In a new study, published Wednesday in peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE, scientists from Queen Mary University of London show that their lab-in-a-backpack approach is as effective as commercially available COVID-19 tests at detecting positive infections.

While global efforts to bring COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries are currently underway, experts say it could take up to three years for these regions to achieve full vaccination.

Because of this vaccine inequity, researchers note that these countries will have to continue to heavily rely on COVID-19 testing and subsequent contact tracing for some time.

However, they say many regions lack the “practical and financial ability to conduct an adequate amount of reliable testing.”

To improve COVID-19 testing options, researchers created the relatively inexpensive lab-in-a-backpack system for a total of US$51 (approximately CA$64) using low-cost hardware, including a centrifuge made from recycled computer hard drives called CentriDrive, to process samples. The testing system also uses non-invasive saliva sampling instead of throat or nasal swabs.

According to the study, the backpack testing lab can process six samples in 90 minutes using a technique known as reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification, or RT-LAMP, which researchers say has a “similar sensitivity” to PCR testing.

Using saliva samples combined with known amounts of SARS-CoV-2 ribonucleic acid (RNA), the study found the lab-in-a-backpack system to be “effective and sensitive” at detecting COVID-19.

According to the study, the backpack lab was able to detect as few as four viral RNA copies per microliter of saliva, which researchers noted is a lower level than what is actually found in patients infected with the virus.

Researchers say the standalone testing system is portable and can be powered by a rechargeable battery or hooked up to a car battery. It also comes with “straightforward instructions that can be followed with minimal training,” according to researchers.

Because of this, the study’s authors say the new testing system could expand the ability of certain countries and populations to offer “fast, reliable, non-invasive detection” of COVID-19 as the pandemic continues.

“It will not only provide a viable and inexpensive test kit for regions such as Africa, where innovative solutions are particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can also be used in resource-rich areas, for example, in high school classrooms to demonstrate how to test for COVID-19,” said the study’s lead author Emily Lin in a press release.

In addition, Queen Mary University of London professor Stoyan Smoukov says the device has the potential to test for other diseases and conditions.

“The COVID-19 test is a timely application, but we also believe with this CentriDrive kit people could perform a large array of routine blood and urine tests, providing a centrifuge away from central hospital facilities,” Smoukov said in the release.

While the system is promising, the study’s authors say more work is needed before the lab-in-a-backpack system can be implemented in real-world environments

Researchers say their next steps will be to further simplify the kit instructions so more people can understand the system, regardless of experience or language, as well as validate the lab with real patient samples.

View original article here Source

Related Posts