Right now, there are basically two ways to test if someone has the coronavirus. One is by taking a rapid antigen test, and the other is by taking a PCR test. The former can be done at home and is cheaper than taking a PCR, but has been known to be not quite as accurate as a PCR test.
But what if we told you that there was a test that could be almost as accurate as a PCR, but cheaper? That’s what researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara have done which resulted in a system that they are calling “smaRT-LAMP”. The initial setup cost of this test will cost around $100, but once you have the system in place, each test will cost around $7, so in the long run it could be cheaper.
The best part is that it uses your smartphone’s camera, meaning that you don’t really need much else other than the “smaRT-LAMP” device. How it works is that users place their saliva into a test kit and place it into a reactive solution that will help amplify viral RNA. The samples are then covered with a cardboard box with an LED lamp stuck at the top, and then by placing your smartphone’s camera at the top, it uses an accompanying app to identify and analyze the color reactions.
The researchers believe that this kit could also be modified in the future for other COVID strains or other types of pathogens, so if and when this pandemic passes, it will still have its uses. Right now the initial tests have been quite small involving 50 patients, so it’s hard to say how this might fare with a larger group of subjects, but the initial results do appear to be promising.