a team of UK scientists have developed a new smart testing device for COVID-19 (coronavirus). incorporating artificial intelligence, image processing, and molecular virology, researchers from a trio of british universities have developed a device that can detect the virus in 30 minutes using a smartphone app. the device would allow those who are self-isolating to test themselves, while health care workers could test patients, and themselves, to slow the pandemic’s spread and ease the burden on the country’s national health service.


the researchers — from the brunel university london, lancaster university, and university of surrey — believe that the device would be operated by ambulatory care professionals, nurses, and biomedical scientists. the science behind the device has been evaluated in the philippines to check chickens for viral infections. the team is adapting it to detect COVID-19 in humans and urgently needs backers to get it mass produced.


each battery-operated and hand-held smart phone-linked device would cost around £100 ($118 USD). it works by taking nasal or throat swabs, which are put into the device. in half an hour, it can determine if someone has COVID-19. importantly, the samples don’t need to go to a laboratory and the same device can test six people at once at a cost of around £4 per person. the team is also working on adding a tele-medicine functionality to the mobile app which can control the device, track the user’s movement (with government permission), and contact anyone who has had a close interaction with the person in order to reduce the virus’ spread.


‘now we know multiple genomes of COVID-19, we can develop the molecular test in a week and have it up and running on the device in three or four,’ said brunel university london’s professor wamadeva balachandran. ‘we have limited time to stop the virus spreading, so anything like this is going to help.’ manufacturers interested in helping the production of the device are encouraged to contact professor balachandran directly.


meanwhile, the guardian reports that UK authorities could make alternative home testing kits available ‘within days’. these kits, which involve pricking a finger to produce a drop of blood, which is then analyzed, would be sold in pharmacies and distributed across the UK by amazon.


image by CDC / unsplash