University of Arizona researchers work to develop smartphone test for COVID-19

Updated: Jan. 29, 2021 at 7:30 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Researchers at the University of Arizona are working to develop a smartphone COVID-19 test, with test results within minutes.

“It’s extremely sensitive. It takes less than ten minutes,” said University of Arizona Professor Dr. Kelly Reynolds.

Reynolds said aside from a smartphone, everything you need to run the COVID-19 test costs less than $100.

Reynolds said the real beauty of this test is in its simplicity.

It is similar to a pregnancy test, but you use your saliva as the liquid. You put your saliva on the microfluidic chip, which is loaded with certain reagents that react to the COVID-19 virus.

Reading the results requires a microscope attachment for your smartphone that can be purchased from Amazon for about $20. The microscope is modified slightly to detect the virus.

“With the way we are developing the test, you don’t need to be a scientist to run it. Really, this is a game changer in terms of getting a COVID test in the hands of an individual,” Reynolds said.

University of Arizona Biomedical Engineering Professor Dr. Joeong-Yeol Yoon said this test is in the research phase and right now, is proving to be about 85% to 88% accurate.

Dr. Yoone said his team is working to make this test even more simple.

“Just the paper strip and the smartphone is all you need,” Dr. Yoon said.

Dr. Yoon said instead of using a smartphone microscope and specially designed enclosure, users would only need to download an app and use a microfluid chip stamped with a QR code.

This method requires no training, so if perfected, it could potentially allow students to pick up microfluidic chips from a campus locations and test their own samples.

“Once it is successful, we will apply for FDA emergency use authorization so we can actually use it for the general public,” Dr. Yoon said.

He said they hope to begin the application process by the end of February.

Dr. Yoon said the test can also be adapted to detect antibodies, which is another project is team is working on.

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