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Low Cost, Portable Molecular Diagnostic Platform Identifies Infectious Diseases with High Accuracy

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 01 Dec 2023
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Image: The AI-assisted molecular diagnostic platform can identify COVID-19 variants and other infectious diseases (Photo courtesy of University of Surrey)
Image: The AI-assisted molecular diagnostic platform can identify COVID-19 variants and other infectious diseases (Photo courtesy of University of Surrey)

Lateral flow tests have been a key tool in detecting COVID-19, but their reliability has been questionable, particularly with the emergence of various virus strains. As the virus evolves, the need for precise, easily accessible testing methods grows. Researchers have now developed a new artificial intelligence (AI)--assisted molecular diagnostic platform that can identify COVID-19 variants as well as other infectious diseases. This cost-effective, portable device could be instrumental in curbing future pandemics due to its high accuracy and adaptability.

Developed by a team at the University of Surrey, UK, in collaboration with other institutions, this new platform, named VIDIIA Hunter (VH6), combines reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) with an AI-driven deep learning model. This AI model is trained to interpret test results for infectious diseases, including COVID-19, minimizing human error and enhancing precision.

The VIDIIA Hunter system is linked to a smartphone application, facilitating the management and monitoring of patient data and sample tracking. The app swiftly displays results and charts within 20 to 30 minutes and syncs with cloud storage. This setup allows for testing close to the patient's location and is capable of detecting other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, dengue fever, and antimicrobial resistance. Notably, the VH6 can be utilized in both human and animal health sectors, which is vital for early detection of potential zoonotic diseases that might transfer between animals and humans.

The research team validated the VH6's accuracy by testing it on 150 COVID-19 positive nasal swab samples with varying viral loads and 250 negative samples. The results showed a remarkable accuracy rate, with 98% detection and 100% specificity. Further tests confirmed the device's ability to identify all COVID-19 variants present in the UK since December 2020. The VH6 has been approved for medical use in the United Kingdom and is also CE-IVD marked and MHRA registered.

"The VH6 diagnostics platform has been approved for COVID-19 testing in the UK, but also has to potential to diagnose current and emerging infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance,” said Dr. Aurore Poirier, Research Fellow B at the University of Surrey. “Its portability, rapidity, accuracy, and affordability allow for near patient testing, in all laboratory and healthcare settings, including low-resources ones. The VIDIIA Hunter therefore has the potential to help control future outbreaks."

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