Scientists have built a pocket DNA sequencer to quickly diagnose diseases

The MinION. Image: Andrew Kilianski

Scientists have for the first time used a pocket DNA sequencing device to detect diseases.

The MinION, or nanopore sequencer, is a low-cost palm-sized tool from Oxford Nanopore Technologies which has been made available to some research groups for testing.

It is powered and operated via a USB connection plugged into a laptop, which means that it could be used for on-site clinical analyses in remote locations.

According to a study published in the journal GigaScience, researchers used the device to identify a range of closely-related bacteria and viruses within six hours.

Andrew Kilianski of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Centre in the US says being able to accurately identify astrains of viruses and bacteria using a mobile platform is attractive to anyone collecting biological samples in the field.

The researchers were able to use the MinION to accurately identify and differentiate viral and bacterial species from samples.

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