Plans for futuristic smartphones that could stop a potential Disease X pandemic from spreading across the world like Covid have been unveiled.
Scientists have built a prototype with a state-of-the-art microscope that is claimed to detect virtually any germ.
It can allow individuals to scan their blood for bacteria and viruses using their devices, the researchers said.
Their study revealed "DNA-based nano-antenna" tech can be fitted into cameras to make them sensitive enough to detect fragments of DNA in the blood.
They would only need a tiny lens and laser to make it work, according to the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München experts.
Professor Philip Tinnefeld, Chair in Physical Chemistry at LMU, said: "The past year has shown that there is always a need for new and innovative diagnostic methods, and perhaps our technology can one day contribute to the development of an inexpensive and reliable diagnostic test that can be carried out at home."
It comes amid fears a new pathogen – dubbed Disease X – could one day ravage the Earth.
Study joint first author Dr Viktorija Glembockyte said: "In the future our technology could be utilised for diagnostic tests even in areas in which access to electricity or laboratory equipment is restricted.
"We have shown that we can directly detect small fragments of DNA in blood serum, using a portable, smartphone-based microscope that runs on a conventional USB power pack to monitor the assay."
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She and her team fitted smartphone-like cameras with a laser and lens to build their prototypes.
They showed their set-up could detect DNA fragments specific for antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria.
And that it could be "easily modified to detect a whole range of interesting target types, such as viruses".
The researchers said the method could be used to check whether bacteria was a drug-resistant strain – which experts fear will one day make common diseases untreatable and could bring about a pandemic worse than Covid.
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