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Phone Swabs Can Correctly Detect Covid 19 Say Goodbye To Uncomfortable Nasal Swabs

A team lead by UCL researchers at Diagnostic Biotech has devised an accurate, non-invasive, and low-cost technique of testing for COVID-19 using samples collected from mobile phone screens.

The research was published in the journal eLife and was conducted by Dr.

Rodrigo Young (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology) looked at swabs collected from smartphone displays rather than directly from persons and discovered that people who showed positive by traditional nasal swabbing PCRs also tested positive when samples were taken from phone screens.

Phone Screen Testing (PoST) discovered the COVID-19 virus on the phones of 81 to 100% of contagious people with a high viral load, implying that it is as accurate as antigen lateral flow testing.

COVID-19 active screening is still a top priority globally, as new variations emerge all the time and vaccine coverage in many countries isn’t assured.

Unfortunately, testing is both costly and physically unpleasant, which are important roadblocks on the way to a successful test and trace system.

PoST is non-invasive and less expensive than a typical nasal swabbing PCR because it is an environmental test rather than a clinical test.

This means that it is not only acceptable for rollout in low-income nations, but it also eliminates the discomfort associated with current COVID-19 testing choices, potentially enhancing the general population’s willingness to undergo frequent testing.

PoST sampling also takes less than a minute and does not require medical professionals, making it ideal for widespread use in large facilities and large-scale applications.

“Like many others, I was concerned about the economic and societal consequences of the pandemic, particularly in low-income nations,” Rodrigo Young remarked.

We realized that the only way to stop the spread was to test as many individuals as possible on a regular basis, but this was not occurring since it was too expensive and inconvenient.

“We recognized right away that this was something significant, because PoST is a method that may be used to restrict outbreaks of new naturally occurring and man-made viruses, preventing future pandemics,” says Diagnostic Biotech, a Chilean business created by UCL’s Dr.

Young has been conducting COVID-19 screenings in Chilean businesses and schools to prevent outbreaks and ensure operational continuity, as periodic assessment of all employees or pupils allows for early detection of asymptomatic people and helps to contain the virus’s transmission.

Diagnostic Biotech is working on a system that will improve on this research by safely taking a phone for PoST sampling and sending the results directly to the user via SMS.

Rodrigo M Young Is a corresponding author, Camila J Solis-Cascante, Andres Barriga-Fehrman, Carlos Abogabir, Alvaro R Thadani, Mariana Labarca, Eva Bustamante, Cecilia V Tapia, Antonia G Sarda, Francisca Sepulveda, Nadia Pozas, Leslie C Cerpa, Maria A Lavanderos, Nelson M Varela, Nelson M Var

eLife’s DOI is 10.7554/eLife.70333.

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