Our overall goal is to enable timely diagnosis of infectious diseases through nucleic acid testing at the point-of-care and in low resource settings, via a compact system that integrates nucleic acid sample preparation, isothermal DNA
amplification, and nucleic acid lateral flow (NALF) detection. We herein present an interim milestone, the design of the
amplification and detection subsystem, and the characterization of thermal and fluidic control and assay execution within this system. Using an earlier prototype of the amplification and detection unit, comprised of a disposable cartridge containing flexible pouches, passive valves, and electrolysis-driven pumps, in conjunction with a small heater, we have demonstrated successful execution of an established and clinically validated isothermal loop-mediated amplification (LAMP) reaction targeting Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) DNA, coupled to NALF detection. The refined design presented herein incorporates miniaturized and integrated electrolytic pumps, novel passive valves, overall design changes to facilitate integration with an upstream sample preparation unit, and a refined instrument design that automates pumping, heating, and timing. Nucleic acid amplification occurs in a two–layer pouch that facilitates fluid handling and appropriate thermal control. The disposable cartridge is manufactured using low-cost and scalable techniques and forms a closed system to prevent workplace contamination by amplicons. In a parallel effort, we are developing a sample preparation unit based on similar design principles, which performs mechanical lysis of mycobacteria and DNA extraction from liquefied and disinfected sputum. Our next step is to combine sample preparation, amplification, and detection in a final integrated cartridge and device, to enable fully automated sample-in to answer-out diagnosis of active tuberculosis in primary care facilities of low-resource and high-burden countries.