Published: Sat, November 12, 2016
Health | By Constance Griffith

This USB Stick Performs an HIV Test

This USB Stick Performs an HIV Test

That's the vision of a team of scientists from the Imperial College London and DNA Electronics, who announced Thursday that they had developed a potentially revolutionary gadget to detect an HIV patient's viral load. Researchers said that the device could be useful in remote settings to help patients manage their treatment effectively, since current tests to detect virus levels take three days and involve sending a blood sample to a laboratory.

Scientists have invented USB stick that can test for HIV in under 30-minutes. The whole process occurs in less half an hour to complete (with most tests averaging around 21 minutes), rather than the multiple day-long wait and lab requirements of other test.

Using a mobile phone chip, the USB HIV test only requires a small blood sample to work. The presence of the virus initiates an electrical signal that can be read by a computer, laptop, or similar handheld device, according to the announcement.

Graham Cooke, of the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said in a statement.

Patients being treated for HIV will usually see their viral load reduce thanks to anti-retroviral drugs, but undergo regular testing to measure the amount of virus in the bloodstream - to monitor check the medication is working and monitor drug-resistance.

The goal primary is to provide HIV-positive patients a way to monitor their condition and identify any troubling signs during their treatment from the comfort of their homes, the same way that diabetes patients can monitor sugar levels using a blood glucose monitor and heart patients can keep track of their blood pressure using a blood pressure monitor.

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The idea behind the HIV USB stick - of empowering consumers to access information about themselves that previously had been hard or even impossible to get - is a seductive notion promoted by several prominent companies.

The USB device resembles a memory stick.

The device was created by scientists at Imperial College London along with researchers at the USA -based DNA Electronics, Reuters reported.

Researchers are also examining whether the technology could be used to diagnose other viruses, such as hepatitis.

The stick had a 95 percent accuracy ratio in the 991 blood samples that it was used to test.

"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 the first time", said Chris Tomazou, DNAe founder and one of the study's authors. The USB stick holds a lot of promise for certain regions in Africa where instances of HIV infection are high but patient monitoring options are greatly limited or entirely unavailable.

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