Many infectious diseases that affect global health are most accurately diagnosed through nucleic acid amplification and detection. However, existing nucleic acid amplification tests are too expensive and complex for most low-resource settings. The small numbers of centralized laboratories that exist in developing countries tend to be in urban areas and primarily cater to the affluent. In contrast, rural area health care facilities commonly have only basic equipment and health workers have limited training and little ability to maintain equipment and handle reagents.1 Reliable electric power is a common infrastructure shortfall. In this paper, we discuss a practical approach to the design and development of non-instrumented molecular diagnostic tests that exploit the benefits of isothermal amplification strategies. We identify modular instrument-free technologies for sample collection, sample preparation, amplification, heating, and detection. By appropriately selecting and integrating these instrument-free modules, we envision development of an easy to use, infrastructure independent diagnostic test that will enable increased use of highly accurate molecular diagnostics at the point of care in low-resource settings.
Keywords: Low-resource settings; infection detection; laminar flow; molecular diagnostics; non-instrumented diagnostics; nucleic acid amplification; point of care diagnostics; sample preparation.