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HIV Testing? There’s an App for That

HIV Testing? There’s an App for That


Researchers introduce new smartphone accessory for blood tests.

Columbia University engineers have created a new and easy way to test for a number of infections, including HIV, using your smartphone. Researchers, led by associate professor Samuel K. Sia, developed the low-cost tester that can provide point-of-care that detects three markers for infection in 15 minutes using a blood sample from a finger prick.

The smartphone accessory uses power from the phone itself and provides a replica of “all mechanical, optical and electronic functions of a lab-based blood test.”

The accessory was recently put to the test in Rwanda where it was used to test 96 patients who were enrolling into a mother-to-child-transmission clinics or voluntary testing center. The workers were given a 30 minute tutorial on how to use the device, which includes an easy-to-use interface, step-by-step pictorial directions, timers to alert users to move on to the next step, and records test results for review. Ninety-seven percent of patients said they would recommend the use of the device.  

“Our work shows that a full laboratory-quality immunoassay can be run on a smartphone accessory,” said Sia, who said that lab-testing coupled with consumer electronics can make diagnostics more accessible. “This kind of capability can transform how health care services are delivered around the world.”

The diagnostic tool is especially helpful for aid workers in remote regions and a fraction of the cost of a full lab. The device has a total manufacturing cost of just $34.

“We are really excited about the next steps in bringing this product to the market in developing countries,” Sia said. “And we are equally excited about exploring how this technology can benefit patients and consumers back home.”

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