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Smartphone Accessory Could Help Detect HIV, Syphilis

Low-cost accessory replicates laboratory-based blood test, researchers report

THURSDAY, Feb. 5, 2015 (HealthDay News) — A smartphone accessory that can detect HIV and syphilis has been developed by Columbia University researchers. The findings were published in the Feb. 4 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

The device was tested by health care workers in Rwanda who used it to analyze blood samples from 96 patients. The health care workers were given 30 minutes of training on the device, and 97 percent of the patients had a positive response to the device. “Our work shows that a full laboratory-quality immunoassay can be run on a smartphone accessory,” team leader Samuel Sia, Ph.D., an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University in New York City, said in a university news release.

The device is small and light enough to fit into a hand, uses little power, and will cost about $34 to make, according to the researchers. The low-cost device can spot markers of the infectious diseases from a finger prick of blood in 15 minutes.

“Our dongle presents new capabilities for a broad range of users, from health care providers to consumers,” Sia said. “By increasing detection of syphilis infections, we might be able to reduce deaths by 10-fold. And for large-scale screening, where the dongle’s high sensitivity with few false negatives is critical, we might be able to scale up HIV testing at the community level with immediate antiretroviral therapy that could nearly stop HIV transmissions and approach elimination of this devastating disease,” he added.

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