Scientists have developed a low-cost and non-invasive method that can unerringly and swiftly detect COVID-19 with the help of the samples collected from the screens of smartphones.
Researchers from University College London (UCL) in the UK examined swabs from mobile phone screens instead of directly from people using the approach known as Phone Screen Testing (PoST).
They determined that people who tested COVID positive through regular nasal swabbing PCR tests were also positive for coronavirus when samples were collected from smartphone screens.
The new approach, described in the journal eLife on Tuesday, detected coronavirus on the mobile phones of 81% to 100% of contagious people with high viral load, implying it is as precise as antigen tests.
The researchers noted that globally active screening for COVID-19 is still a priority as new variants keep emerging and the vaccination rollout is not guaranteed in many countries.
However, testing is expensive and can be physically unpleasant, both of which are significant hurdles on the road to an effective test and trace system, they said.
As PoST is an environmental test, rather than a clinical test, it is both non-invasive and less expensive than traditional nasal swabbing PCR, according to the researchers.
This means that not only is it suitable for rollout in lower-income countries, but it also removes the discomfort of current COVID-19 testing options, potentially increasing take-up of regular testing among the general population, they explained.
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