A single-drop DNA test, which works like a pH test for swimming pools, detects disease and gives a result in 90 minutes.
A new study suggests the test—which has successfully detected viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites in humans, crops, and cattle—could be used by health workers or farmers in the field to save lives, time, and money.
“We’ve been able to take what would usually be done with complicated equipment in a centralized laboratory and miniaturize it into a single drop of fluid that farmers, for example, can use to get an almost immediate result in the field,” says Matt Trau, a professor at the Australian Institute for Bioengineeing and Nanotechnology at University of Queensland.
The test uses a single drop of liquid that changes color if the test is positive. In its current form, it can be made sensitive enough to detect even the smallest trace amounts of DNA or RNA, and can also scan for multiple pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and other micro-organisms that cause disease) or cancer markers.
“We can now detect as little as just a few molecules of DNA in almost any sample such as blood, saliva, or even soil,” Trau says. “This part is particularly exciting for many future applications.”