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Beyond watching YouTube, sharing Instagram photos or reading the latest Twitter updates, smartphone users may be able to use their handheld devices to I.D. COVID-19 in the coming months. An international tandem is working on phone-linked device and interrelated app to allow users to test for the virus at home.

According to reports in the Financial Times, Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical company, will team up with Silicon Valley start-up Luminostics to develop a coronavirus test package potential patients could do themselves anywhere using a special add-on plugged into any brand of smartphone. Analytical software via an app would conduct the test and report results.

During the Coronavirus crisis so far, smartphones were put to use calling out of lockdown or tracking the infected. Now, this new hardware/software mix could make long lines at testing centers unnecessary.

This would be the first effort to transform devices designed for communication and social media interaction into infectious disease test tools. There are apps and interconnected devices now that serve medical purposes, such as scanning for blood sugar levels in diabetics. This smartphone test would focus just on the current virus.

According to Luminostics’ property research, the firm developed a sort of glow-in-the-dark particle detectable by a smartphone’s camera when used with a specially designed plug-in testing adapter.

Patients would theoretically capture a sample of mucous or other fluid from the back of their nose with a swab. That sample would go into a plug-in testing device hiding a chemical compound with the particle. That little indicator would glow when the virus is present.

The smartphone’s camera would spot the signal via A.I. and report the results to an app linked to the test. That same app would announce the results to the user and potentially enable communication with medical assistants.

According to the published reports, even if Sanofi and Luminostics can pull the technology and applications together, device and software testing would mean the smartphone test would not be ready for use until the end of 2020. Meanwhile, other pharmaceutical firms and research labs around the world continue to search for effective drugs and vaccines to end the global virus scare.

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