Access to fast and reliable nucleic acid testing continues to play a key role in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the context of increased vaccine break-through risks due to new variants. We report a rapid, low-cost (~ 2 USD), simple-to-use nucleic acid test kit for self-administered at-home testing without lab instrumentation. The entire sample-to-answer workflow takes < 60 min, including noninvasive sample collection, one-step RNA preparation, reverse-transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) in a thermos, and direct visual inspection of a colorimetric test result. To facilitate long-term storage without cold-chain, a fast one-pot lyophilization protocol was developed to preserve all required biochemical reagents of the colorimetric RT-LAMP test in a single microtube. Notably, the lyophilized RT-LAMP assay demonstrated reduced false positives as well as enhanced tolerance to a wider range of incubation temperatures compared to solution-based RT-LAMP reactions. We validated our RT-LAMP assay using simulated infected samples, and detected a panel of SARS-CoV-2 variants with successful detection of all variants that were available to us at the time. With a simple change of the primer set, our lyophilized RT-LAMP home test can be easily adapted as a low-cost surveillance platform for other pathogens and infectious diseases of global public health importance.
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