This USB Allows for Simple, Quick and Accurate HIV Testing

Interesting Engineering

Engineering continues to save lives daily, and this technology takes it one step further.

Scientists from DNA Electronics and Imperial College London developed a USB stick to test for HIV by just a blood drop. The gadget works by creating an electrical signal that could be read by a laptop, computer, or handheld device and producing the result in less than 30 mins.

How does it work?

According research reports published in Nature, the device monitors the amount of virus in the bloodstream quickly, a process that takes at least three days in current tests. Instead of sending the samples to a laboratory, it uses a mobile phone chip and only needs a tiny blood sample.

The chip is placed onto a spot on the stick that transforms the triggers into an electric signal. The results appear in software on an electronic device or computer. The signal gets sent to the USB stick. It processed 991 blood samples with 95 percent accuracy in around 20.8 minutes in latest research.

hiv_usb1[Image source: Imperial College London]

"HIV treatment has dramatically improved over the last 20 years - to the point that many diagnosed with the infection now have a normal life expectancy. However, monitoring viral load is crucial to the success of HIV treatment. At the moment, testing often requires costly and complex equipment that can take a couple of days to produce a result. We have taken the job done by this equipment, which is the size of a large photocopier, and shrunk it down to a USB chip."

said Dr. Graham Cooke, senior author of the research from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London.

hiv_usb2[Image source: Imperial College London]

The device is also beneficial about detecting the HIV virus levels of the positive patients. This allows them to track their treatment online to watch if the virus has been developed resistance. Rising virus level means a lot in HIV treatment.

hiv_usb3[Image source: Imperial College London]

What it Means for the World

Professor Chris Toumazou, DNAe's Founder, Executive Chairman and Regius Professor at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial, said:

"This is a great example of how this new analysis technology has the potential to transform how patients with HIV are treated by providing a fast, accurate and portable solution. At DNAe we are already applying this highly adaptable technology to address significant global threats to health, where treatment is time-critical and needs to be right first time."

hiv_013[Image source: WHO]

The device allows HIV+ people to check the virus levels in the same way that with diabetic patients check their blood sugar levels.

It also tells if younger patients, particularly babies, got the virus from their parents. HIV is one of the most dangerous infections in the world. Currently, 36.7 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

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