HomeHealth ConditionsCOVID-19Portable, point-of-care test for COVID-19

Portable, point-of-care test for COVID-19

A recent study demonstrates the efficacy of a rapid and portable point-of-care instrument for COVID-19 testing.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, increased demand for testing has left an urgent need for alternative, more efficient methods of detection. Laboratory systems are facing a shortage of supplies and personnel resulting in long wait times in some regions. Currently, RT-PCR is used as the gold standard for COVID-19 testing. It is, however, labor-intensive, time-consuming, and reliant on a laboratory-based setting. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a rapid COVID-19 molecular test and a portable point-of-care instrument capable of using only a smartphone to read results within 30 minutes.

Samples were collected from patients via nasopharyngeal swabs, transferred to a viral transport medium, and sent off for further analysis. Normally, the RT-PCR process involves multi-step extractions and commercial thermocyclers, which can be both costly and time-consuming. To develop a specific and sensitive assay, the researchers used a portable hand-held RT-LAMP detection method for COVID-19. The LAMP technique bypasses RNA extraction and purification steps allowing for a point-of-care diagnosis without having to send samples to a lab.

The portable COVID-19 test instrument allows for rapid, cost-efficient, and scalable testing

The researchers contrasted standard PCR and LAMP assays using both synthetically manufactured nasal fluid spiked with COVID-19 and clinical samples. Consistent and equal results were reported, though the LAMP assay provided greater specificity and sensitivity. They were then able to integrate the assay onto a 3D-printed microfluidic disposable cartridge fitting the portable instrument. Results were monitored in real-time using a smart-phone based reader.

Today’s commercially available COVID-19 tests require laboratories, due to the need for specific equipment and trained personnel. By incorporating the portable point-of-care technology tested by these researchers, countries could deliver fast, inexpensive, and accurate diagnostics.

This novel instrument has the ability to use a disposable cartridge to rapidly detect COVID-19 allowing for expandability. It can be implemented quickly in schools, facilities, and other areas that require large-scale testing. Researchers are now looking into the use of saliva instead of nasal swabs, to further simplify the COVID-19 testing process.

Written by Melody Sayrany


Rapid isothermal amplification and portable detection system for SARS-CoV-2. Anurup Ganguli, Ariana Mostafa, Jacob Berger, Mehmet Y. Aydin, Fu Sun, Sarah A. Stewart de Ramirez, Enrique Valera, Brian T. Cunningham, William P. King, Rashid Bashir. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Aug 2020, 202014739; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2014739117

Image by Ewa Urban from Pixabay 

Melody Sayrany MSc
Melody Sayrany MSc
Melody Sayrany is a seasoned science writer with a host of experiences in cancer, neuroscience, aging, and metabolism research. She completed her BSc at The University of California, San Diego, and her MSc in biology, focusing on metabolic diseases during aging, at the University of British Columbia. Melody is passionate about science communication, and she aims to bridge the gap between complex scientific concepts and the broader community through compelling storytelling.


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