UC Santa Barbara develops smartphone app to detect Covid-19 and flu

Researchers from the University of California (UC) Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital have developed a mobile phone app and a lab kit to detect Covid-19 variants and influenza viruses.

The new kit can turn a smartphone into a Covid-19/flu detection system.

UC Santa Barbara said the new system provides a platform for cost-effective home testing.

It can also be adapted to other pathogens with pandemic potential, including variants of Covid-19 and influenza.

UC Santa Barbara professor and lead author Michael Mahan said, “As new variants of Covid emerge around the world, testing and detection remain critical to pandemic relief efforts.

“Nearly half of the world’s population owns a smartphone, and we believe this holds exciting potential to provide fair and equal access to diagnostic precision medicine.”

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Developed for the Android operating system, the custom application can be downloaded and installed from the Google Play store.

After opening the application, the user will have an option for a step-by-step tutorial before running test samples.

The system uses a smartphone camera and diagnostic kit to measure the chemical reaction in a small sample of the user’s saliva. It provides a diagnosis within 25 minutes.

The process, known as smaRT-LAMP, does not require any additional special materials.

Charles Samuel, professor at UC Santa Barbara, said: “SmaRT-LAMP can detect Covid-19 and can be easily modified to detect new variants of CoV-2 and other pathogens with pandemic potential, including the flu.”

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital provided funding for the research.

The US Army Combat Capability Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory also provided funds through the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies Cooperative Agreement and Contract.

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