Faster lab results: Scientists develop low-cost, portable smartphone reader that can detect common infections

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Updated: April 25, 2018 12:17:33 PM

 Scientists have developed a low-cost, portable smartphone reader that can detect common viral and bacterial infections such as mumps, measles, herpes, as well as clinical laboratories.

smartphone, portable smartphone, clinical laboratories, US,  Washington State University,   mobile health diagnostic devices, The system could lead to faster and lower-cost lab results for fast-moving viral and bacterial epidemics, especially in rural or lower-resource regions where laboratory equipment and medical personnel are sometimes not readily available

Scientists have developed a low-cost, portable smartphone reader that can detect common viral and bacterial infections such as mumps, measles, herpes, as well as clinical laboratories. The system could lead to faster and lower-cost lab results for fast-moving viral and bacterial epidemics, especially in rural or lower-resource regions where laboratory equipment and medical personnel are sometimes not readily available.

Researchers at Washington State University in the US found that their portable smartphone reader worked nearly as well as standard lab testing in detecting 12 common viral and bacterial infectious diseases, such as mumps, measles, herpes, and Lyme Disease. In rural or underdeveloped areas, doctors sometimes must rely on a patient’s symptoms or use their own judgement in looking at test sample color results to determine whether a patient has an infection. As expected, this process is often inaccurate.

If they send results off to a lab in a distant city, the doctors sometimes must wait for days – by which time the infection may have become widespread. Most existing mobile health diagnostic devices, meanwhile, can only analyse one sample at a time. The researchers tested the device, which is about the size of a hand, with 771 patient samples at Hospital of University of Pennsylvania in the US and found that it provided false positives only about one per cent of the time (was 97 to 99.9 per cent accurate). The smartphone reader, which includes a portable device, takes a photo of 96 sample wells at once and uses a computer program to carefully analyse colour to determine positive or negative results. “This smartphone reader has the potential to improve access and speed up healthcare delivery.

If we find out about infections, we can treat them more quickly, which makes a difference especially in low-resource, remote areas,” said Lei Li, assistant professor at WSU. Buying the components themselves, the research team was able to build the device for about USD 50, but the manufacturing cost would probably be lower than that, he said. They have filed a patent and hope to move forward with clinical trials that could lead to commercialisation.

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