Novel method: New Covid-19 test makes use of smartphone camera

Rapid, one-step CRISPR-based mobile test could help combat the pandemic and fully reopen communities


Covid-19How about swabbing your nostrils, putting the swab in a device, and getting a read-out on your phone in 15 to 30 minutes that tells you if you are infected with the Covid-19 virus?

Interesting, isn’t it? This has been the vision for a team of scientists at Gladstone Institutes, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

They have now reported a scientific breakthrough that brings them closer to making this vision a reality.

The availability of mass rapid testing is one of the major hurdles to combating the COVID-19 pandemic and fully reopening communities across the country.

Valuable insights

Details of who is infected would provide valuable insights about the potential spread and threat of the virus for policymakers and citizens alike.

Still, people must often wait several days for their results, or even longer when there is a backlog in processing lab tests. And, the situation is worsened by the fact that most infected people have mild or no symptoms, yet still carry and spread the virus.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Cell, the team from Gladstone, UC Berkeley, and UCSF has outlined the technology for a CRISPR-based test for COVID-19 that uses a smartphone camera to provide accurate results in under 30 minutes.

Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and one of the leaders of the study, said, “It has been an urgent task for the scientific community to not only increase testing, but also to provide new testing options.”

“The assay we developed could provide rapid, low-cost testing to help control the spread of Covid-19,” he added.

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The technique was designed in collaboration with UC Berkeley bioengineer Daniel Fletcher, PhD, as well as Jennifer Doudna, PhD, who is a senior investigator at Gladstone, a professor at UC Berkeley, president of the Innovative Genomics Institute, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Doudna recently won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for co-discovering CRISPR-Cas genome editing, the technology that underlies this work.

(With inputs from The OnLook News Research Bureau)

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