A new molecular diagnostic test for infectious diseases, including SARS-CoV-2, has been developed by scientists at the University of Surrey, as they warn that the world needs to be prepared for the next pandemic. The research team, led by Professor Johnjoe McFadden, developed a new molecular test called ‘Electro-chemical LAMP’ (eLAMP), which is affordable, rapid, sensitive, and can be performed at home, in a GP surgery, or in a hospital lab. eLAMP has the sensitivity of lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) 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, and scientists are already 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. 

“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,” says McFadden, corresponding author of the study and Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey. “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.” 

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Researchers tested human blood, saliva, and swabs from the nose and throat. They found that their test had a 93.33% detection accuracy rate. The test also performs well at room temperature, with the ability to bring up results in 45 minutes. 

“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,” says Khushboo Borah Slater, DPhil, co-author of the study from the University of Surrey.  A study on Surrey’s test has been published by iScience.