An HIV Screening Test on your Smartphone
A pinch of the finger, a smartphone and a waiting period of 15 minutes is all it takes to get your result. This, in general terms, is the letter of introduction for the latest gadget promising to revolutionize the world of health: an accessory for the cell phone that makes it possible to perform a screening test for infections such as syphilis or HIV.
The devise in question, a pocket device developed by a team of biomedical engineers from the University of Columbia, as its developers explained in an article published in the magazine “Science Translation Medicine”, works by simply connecting it to a smartphone and does not require more current than that provided by the phone itself; reproducing all the mechanical, optical and electronic functions of a blood test performed in a conventional lab.
As a much simpler mechanism, and approximately ten times faster, this device, still in its experimental stage, is capable –in just 15 minutes with a blood sample taken with the pinch of the finger—of detecting three infectious markers simultaneously; HIV antibodies, treponeme-specific and non-treponemal antibodies to detect syphilis.
¨Our work shows that a test of the same quality as an “immunotest” can be performed with an accessory connected to a smartphone”, Samuel Sia, Project Director, and associate professor of biomedical engineering of the University of Columbia explains. “By joining the discipline known as “microfluidics” with recent advances in the field of consumer electronic devices we are able to make a diagnosis like that obtained from a conventional lab accessible to almost the entire population with access to a smartphone. A capacity that can transform the way in which medicine is provided worldwide”, Sia admits.
Its price, estimated at around $34.00 –compared to the $18,450 price tag of the equipment required for the current screening test, known as Elisa—along with its capacity to function without requiring electrical current and its ease of use— the professionals who used it during the trial received only 30 minutes of training—make this device one of the high hopes for developing countries.
Ruanda has, in effect, been chosen as the site to begin the tests, which have been currently performed on 96 pregnant volunteers, 97 percent of who recommended its use over other screening techniques.