Working in Latin America to provide fast, versatile, and accessible COVID-19 testing
Credits: Steven Southon
With support from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), researchers at the University of Toronto adapted a portable glucose meter-based test to detect COVID-19. The test builds on previous work funded by IDRC and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to detect Zika virus infections in Latin America. The team, led by Assistant Professor Keith Pardee, adapted their lab-in-a-box platform to use for COVID-19 diagnostics and antibody testing. This low-cost and programmable platform has now been tested with small businesses in Canada and with diagnostic labs and others in Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile and India.
“Support from IDRC was critical for our group to quickly launch the COVID-19 diagnostics effort in the lab and has been instrumental in establishing a global network of collaborators for trials of the technology,” says Pardee.
In addition to responding to the COVID-19 crisis, the team’s long-term goal is to build flexible technologies for future pandemics. Because these testing technologies are small and portable—and have the potential to give results rapidly outside of centralized facilities—they are much more accessible. They can simplify the detection of COVID-19 infections in workplaces, schools and communities, enabling more rapid public-health responses.
Drawing upon the work of research teams in Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia, these diagnostic tools could play a significant role in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a partnership with the National Research Council of Canada, the technology is now being paired with point-of-use RNA extraction for community-based detection of variants of concern.
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