Researchers at the University of California (UC) Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital have developed a cell phone app and lab kit to detect Covid-19 variants and flu viruses.

The new kit can transform a smartphone into a Covid-19/flu detection system.

UC Santa Barbara stated that the new system provides a platform for cost-effective home-based testing.

It can also be adapted for other pathogens with pandemic potential, including Covid-19 variants and flu.

UC Santa Barbara professor and lead author Michael Mahan said: “As new Covid variants emerge globally, testing and detection remain essential to pandemic control efforts.

“Nearly half the world’s population has a smartphone, and we believe that this holds exciting potential to provide fair and equal access to precision diagnostic medicine.”

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Developed for the Android operating system, the custom-built app can be downloaded and installed from the Google Play store.

After opening the app, the user will be provided with an option for a step-by-step tutorial before running test samples.

The system uses a smartphone camera and diagnostic kit to measure the chemical reaction in a small saliva sample from the user. It provides a diagnosis within 25 minutes.

The process, known as smaRT-LAMP, does not require any additional speciality materials.

UC Santa Barbara professor Charles Samuel said: “SmaRT-LAMP can detect Covid-19 and can be readily modified to detect novel CoV-2 variants and other pathogens with pandemic potential, including influenza.”

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital provided funds for the research.

The Army Research Laboratory of US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command also provided funds through the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies cooperative agreement and contract.