UAE: Promising New Testing Kit for COVID-19!

Hazel Clayton
2 min readOct 12, 2020

A promising new test kit has been developed by a team of researchers at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi that can detect coronaviruses in 35 minutes. The handheld computer, which is significantly bigger than a tablet, is awaiting clinical validation. The observations have so far proved to be as reliable as a PCR nasal swab examination, the tool commonly used in patients to classify the virus. The reusable package is capable of examining 16 different samples at once, the color of which differs based on the results.

A loop-mediated isothermal amplification (Lamp) technique is used in the process, which is a low-cost tool for detecting such diseases. Dr Anas Alazzam, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Khalifa University and principal investigator of the kit, said that polymerase chain reaction or PCR testing is lengthy and involves bulky equipment. To start the RNA replication process, it uses a thermal cycling approach, which needs to be converted to DNA and the virus must be detected. On the other hand, Lamp utilizes a single approach to temperature to get the same results. In a single computer, it can be carried out and the operation is even quicker. The kit initially took 45 minutes to produce results, including 15 minutes for the sample to be prepared and 30 minutes for testing.

Researchers working on the device have been able to reduce the training time to five minutes this month, taking the overall time for coronavirus diagnosis to just 35 minutes. They used a method of colorimetric detection. An alarm sounds when the test is complete, and we see a color change in the samples, says Dr. Alazzam. The better case is yellow and the bad case is pink. In May, they began working on this system and we have checked only nasal swabs so far. We will be running saliva tests from mid-October, and hopefully they will be able to identify coronaviruses using saliva samples in the very distant future.

The handheld unit at Khalifa University, which was designed and 3D-printed, is 25 centimeters long and seven centimeters tall. The team is presently working to further decrease its size. The team is presently working to further decrease its number. Dr Alazzam said that once the technology is scientifically tested and licensed by the government, we will start mass production.

The device could be used both at home, in workplaces and for easy testing of frontline employees. We might also use it to track passengers at or on board a plane at the airport.