Low-cost 3D-printed thermos could help diagnose Zika virus by testing saliva

zika thermos 20160411 161704
Engineers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a rapid, low-cost genetic test for the Zika virus that could cost as little as $2 to manufacture and doesn’t require any electricity or technical know-how to use.

The size of a regular soda can, the test simply requires potential patients to provide a saliva sample. A removable slide/cassette inside the thermos changes color to reveal whether or not the virus has been detected. The test kit itself ia made up of a thermos bottle, an integrated heating element that uses a chemical reaction normally seen in portable military rations, and a 3D-printed lid that holds all of the components together.

Zika Test cut-away _0The test could be particularly useful since, at present, the only approved diagnostic tools to indicate the presence of Zika involve sensitive laboratory equipment.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved, on an emergency basis, only laboratory-based molecular tests for the Zika virus,” Changchun Liu, research assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, tells Digital Trends. “However, [these tests] require a well-trained technician and expensive instrumentation — conditions that are not optimal for point of care diagnostic applications.”

Rapid diagnosis is extremely important for the Zika virus, particularly when it comes to pregnant women who have been infected. The creation of a field diagnostic tool therefore represents a possible major breakthrough.

The University of Pennsylvania’s test takes about 40 minutes to run, and in preliminary studies proved to be as sensitive as the so-called RT-PCR laboratory test, which is used for diagnosing the virus at present.

Liu describes the thermos-based genetic test as a “proof of concept,” and says that more experiments must be done before it can be adapted for medical use — including further experiments to ensure that it matches the most accurate available tests for the virus. However, once this is achieved, the test could be rolled out and used in areas affected by Zika.

It is hoped that a future version could even ramp up its efficiency by being able to quantify the viral load using a fluorescent dye and integrated smartphone camera.


Think iPhones can’t get viruses? Our expert explains why it could happen

If your iPhone has been acting strangely, then you may be concerned about the possibility it is infected with a virus or some malware. We take a look at just how likely that is and explain why iOS is considered relatively safe.

Don't take your provider's word for it. Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.
Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Smart Home

The five best teeth-whitening kits you can buy on Amazon

Teeth whitening can have a major impact on a person’s smile and overall appearance. You don't necessarily have to go to the dentist to get your teeth whitened though. Here are the best teeth-whitening kits you can buy.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.