Performing lab-quality test for many infectious diseases, particularly viral ones, is difficult in remote regions. Much lab equipment requires some kind of infrastructure, including clean rooms, trained staff, and the money. Researchers at Purdue University have developed a device that can perform RNA amplification and testing in a tiny battery-powered package.
The technology relies on strips of a paper-like material that can become saturated and can slowly move a liquid from its one end to another. The electronics are used to mix a small blood sample with a buffer solution and to then heat it as it moves across the paper. The heat helps to amplify the RNA and for the material to absorb the sample properly. Temperature sensors monitor the process so the liquid moves at the desired rate across the special strips.
A band shows up on the end of the strip if the result is positive, and work still needs to be done to optimize this to be able to not only detect a virus, but to also do a viral count.
Here’s a video from Purdue University explaining the technology: