The coronavirus pandemic has had palpable impacts on our work and private lives, with drastic consequences for the global economy. Breaking the chains of infection is key to containing the spread of the virus. Alongside face masks, distancing rules and limitations on contact, reliable testing procedures provide the foundations for quick and effective identification of infections. Researchers from Fraunhofer institutes are currently developing a new SARS-CoV-2 test procedure that is designed to reduce the fastest turnaround time from four hours to just 40 minutes and enable mobile testing on location by removing the need for complex and expensive analysis equipment. The prototype for a mobile lab has been jointly developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT).
Unlike other rapid tests, such as the recently introduced antigen tests, this lab uses the loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) method. The principle of this method is based on testing for parts of the viral genetic information. The new test could also be performed with a mouth rinse – rather than a swab, which many test subjects and patients find unpleasant. All of the equipment and materials needed for the LAMP test have been integrated into the prototype for a mobile van-sized lab to enable on-the-spot testing in future, for example to facilitate admission to events or screening in schools or businesses.