New Portable, Low-cost Platform Detects Disease in Minutes

Researchers from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and the Jewish General Hospital have designed a portable, low-cost detection platform which uses nanotechnology and artificial intelligence to rapidly diagnose infectious diseases. The all-in-one detection platform – called QolorEX – can deliver test results in just 13 minutes and is intended for use in responding to future pandemics where convenient tools would be required at home, in low-resource areas, and in communal environments.

The machine uses a saliva sample which is transferred to a microfluidic device which then uses machine learning to automatically take microscopic images of the sample. Microfluidics is paired with plasmonic hot electron injection to speed up colorimetric sensing. Various amplification assays are also used to identify pathogens in human saliva samples, with the DNA and RNA amplification being capable of distinguishing between viral groups and subtypes. Those images are sent to a smartphone application that interprets the data and gives a rapid test result.

“Because we will likely see more pandemics in the future, our lab aims to build portable, low-cost technologies with practical clinical results for use in low-resource settings, at-home, or communal environments,”said team lead, Dr. Sara Mahshid. “This platform has shown to have a 95% accuracy rate, on par with quantitative PCR when it comes to COVID testing using saliva samples, and is potentially a valuable tool for monitoring emerging viral infections, variants, and even bacteria. Thanks to its accessibility, the number of tests being performed can be increased, potentially leading to an early diagnosis that could save lives and curb the spread of respiratory diseases globally.”