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Lab in a backpack – Simple and Cheap Covid19 testing

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have created a simple Covid-19 testing lab that fits into a backpack providing a cheap and effective solution for low income or remote areas.

lab in a backpack Covid-19 testing kit


The testing kit is based on a simple, non-invasive Covid-19 LAMP test and uses low-cost hardware, including a centrifuge made from recycled computer hard drives, called a CentriDrive, to process samples.

The LAMP(Loop-mediated isothermal amplification) test is a widely accepted alternative to the commonly used PCR test, has a similar sensitivity but unlike the PCR test does not require temperature cycling, only a single high temperature to amplify any potential virus RNA. This allows the test to be performed with only minimal equipment and reagents. Because the LAMP test uses saliva samples, it also avoids the need for invasive, uncomfortable nasal swabs. However, the high costs of commercially available LAMP tests, as well as the expensive lab equipment required to run them, means that current commercial approaches aren’t suitable for remote locations, or in-home testing.

The compact kit is relatively inexpensive to make, costing $51 in total. It could offer an alternative testing solution for resource-poor countries or remote areas with little access to well-equipped testing labs or trained personnel to process samples.

Professor Stoyan Smoukov, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Queen Mary University of London, said: “We are excited for the potential of this mobile lab to do Covid-19 tests and the possibility to democratise access to inexpensive testing technology. It is made possible by our philosophy of creating low-cost instruments whenever possible from advances in electronics, or existing instruments. The paper is here.