Smartphones may be able to detect dengue soon.

Monday April 11, 2022 at 12:19 pm

These smartphones have become the single most powerful tools humanity has ever invented. They serve a large cocktail of functions in everyday life, including acting as phones, computers, clocks, calendars, contacts pads, note pads, compasses, maps, grocery shops, televisions, walkman, etc. Now researchers are also exploring the various ways in which they can help with health improvement. From Digital well-being and parental control apps to steps counters and fitness apps to apps meant for psychological counseling or counseling to apps suggested for supplying meds, all kinds of health apps and tools are now entering the market. Nowadays, smartphones may help fight dengue fever too.

In a paper recently published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, biomedical technology researchers from the University of Reading experimented with using a new diagnostic kit called Cygnus to detect the dengue fever with significantly improved rates over lateral flow testing kits.

Working with academics and clinicians in Thailand, the team trialed the tests alongside already established alternatives for diagnostics and found the new tests showed an 82% clinical sensitivity, surpassing lateral flow testing (74% sensitivity) by a significant margin and nearly matching hospital-based lab diagnostics (83% sensitivity). At the same time, these devices can make ten measurements, allowing one to identify which of the four different dengue virus types caused the infection.

Dr. Sarah Needsis claimed: “The paper shows an exciting potential for using the microfluidic ‘lab on a strip’ tests that can be used in conjunction with a smartphone and are more powerful than LFT testing in this case. As well as being cheap to produce, the lab on a strip technology allows users to test many different targets at once in one sample, so it could be useful to detect multiple diseases, not just one. She is the lead author of the paper. She is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Microfluidic Antimicrobial Resistance Testing from the University of Reading
Dr. Needs

Researchers first developed the new diagnostic test for the research uses with ‘lab on a strip’ technology, which can perform ten or more tests on a minimal amount of liquid sample of human body fluid such as blood, saliva, or urine.

The tests were developed for the research and were specifically designed to detect dengue fever. Dengue fever affects an estimated 400m cases each year. While most cases prove to be mild, dengue infections can often lead to significant complications which can be fatal. Dengue is the most severe in children and can be an extreme health challenge half the global population faces. Moreover, people in poorer countries are far more vulnerable to the dengue outbreak. A cheaper diagnosing problem can go a long way in helping people in these developing countries diagnose dengue at the early stages and get the desired treatment.

Dr. Alexander Edwards co-created the lab on strip technology, and he is an Associate Professor in Biomedical Technology at the University of Reading. Dr. Edwards asserted: “While some people might only recently learned of the trade-offs between home vs. lab testing following Covid-19, rapid lateral flow tests are used for various illnesses, including dengue.

“With the Cygnus concept, we are tackling the biggest hurdle for home testing. How do you make something portable that can be cheaply mass-produced while still matching laboratory test performance? Designing the microfluidic lab on a strip using mass-production melt-extrusion makes it possible to scale up production and produce hundreds of thousands of tests. By recording results with smartphones, which are becoming ubiquitous, we have designed something that could be revolutionary for healthcare.”