A team of researchers has created and tested a miniaturized virus-scanning system that uses inexpensive components and a smartphone because current methods to detect viruses and other biological markers of disease are efficient but large and expensive (such as fluorescence microscopes). While current tools are accurate at counting viruses, they are often too laborious for many situations, particularly when a rapid diagnosis is needed. The researchers hope the smartphone scanner will help those who combat the spread of diseases faster.
The freshly created tool is battery-powered and portable, scanning biological samples for viruses. Researchers used viruses to test the gadget but claim it can detect other biological markers.
The scanner identified about 60% as many influenza viruses in two identical samples as the fluorescence microscope did. However, it does so much more quickly and can generate reliable approximations for precise diagnoses. The smartphone scanner is about 100 times more sensitive than a commercial rapid influenza test kit, and it’s not just confined to that kind of virus, which is remarkable.
The device created by the study team is roughly the size of a brick and has a slot on top where a smartphone can be placed so that the camera can view the device’s interior through a small lens. An observer would see what appeared to be a starry night sky on the screen through customized smartphone software, but the “stars” were individual viruses.
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