Scientists develop new covid-19 smart testing device using intelligent smartphone application 

by Emily on May 8, 2020

in Articles

Creating a coronavirus testing kit that is easy to use and accessible for all has been one of the biggest challenges alongside fighting the virus. Scientists around the globe have been working tirelessly to find a vaccination to decrease the spread of the virus. In order to tackle new challenges, we now have new technology that can be used. Almost everyone in the world has a smartphone or has access to one which is why creating a testing kit that resembles something familiar like a smart device like our smartphone, is one of the best ways to help test for the virus. 

(illustration by Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reveals coronavirus ultrastructural morphology)

Testing kits for coronavirus are essential as they help to identify if a patient has the virus and allows them to be treated sooner, with the right medications and equipment. Knowing that a person tests positive for the virus means they can be treated specially for the infection rather than assumptions and poor care. Testing kits are also crucial for frontline staff, such as nurses and doctors who are helping coronavirus patients. This is because if they test positive, they can stop working and go into self-isolation themselves, preventing them from spreading the virus further. 

Scientists from Brunel University, University of Surrey and Lancaster University have developed a smart testing device that uses a cocktail of technologies. The device helps to detect coronavirus in 30 minutes by using an intelligent smart application. The app includes using technology such as artificial intelligence, molecular virology and image processing to get results. The science behind the device has previously been tested in the Philippines on chickens to check them for viral infections. The team has adapted the science in a way to detect coronavirus and are currently in talks to get it urgently mass-produced.

The device is a battery-operated hand-held device that can be linked to a smartphone. The device costs in the reign of £100 to manufacture, making it cost-effective and is easy to use. The device works by taking throat or nasal swabs from the suspective COVID patient. The swab is then placed into the device and is then used in conjunction with the specially created app. After about 30 minutes, the device can determine if someone has coronavirus. One of the best advantages of this new device is that the samples that are taken do not need to go to a laboratory which prolongs the process. The device can also test six people at once, costing around £4 per person, making it cost-effective. 

The team of scientists are also working on adding a telemedicine functionality to the mobile app that will control the device and will be able to track the user’s movements with government permission. Through the data provided by the device, people who have come into close interactions with the person diagnosed with the virus will be provided suggested next steps for them to take. Doing this will help reduce the spread of the virus and prevent it from spreading further. 

The current device is capable of performing diagnostics at any location and with minimal training involved compared to other testing kits. The device is aimed to be used by emergency care professionals such as ambulance paramedics and frontline staff such as nurses. The device can also be used by those who are self-isolating and health care workers to test patients. This combination can help slow the spread of the virus and ease the burden on the NHS.

The overall aim of the device is not only to help control the virus but to also make it cheaper than other testing kits. Making the device cost-effective will mean that the device will be able to be used worldwide in our homes, GP surgeries, care homes and hospitals.  As mentioned above, once the infection is identified, the intelligent system will track down all people who have been in close contact over a 14day period with the patient. Via the mobile phone application, they will be provided with advice such as quarantine or self-isolating. 

The spread and severity of the virus has brought upon new innovative ways of using materials and devices from different parts of the world to help create more medical equipment and devices. Like the one above to help cope with the virus. For example, engineers at Mercedes AMG are working with UCL to create devices which help patients breathe. Now more than ever do all organisations need to set their differences aside and work together to tackle the virus. 

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