Technology

HIV Testing Done in USB Stick Gives Accurate and Faster Results in Just 30 Minutes

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HIV Testing Done in USB Stick Gives Accurate and Faster Results in Just 30 Minutes
PHOTOGRAPH: UNICEF Ethiopia/Flickr |

HIV testing can eventually be done through a USB stick that accurately gives results faster than in the laboratory. The new tech could help many patients monitor their treatment and reach places with many cases of HIV with no testing equipment.

The study published in Scientific Reports revealed with only a drop of blood, the small device can give results on the amount of HIV virus present in a patient’s bloodstream in under 30 minutes. The senior author of the research, Dr. Graham Cooke from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, positively shares the improvement of HIV treatment over 20 years have helped patients have a “normal life expectancy.”

Tech-Forward HIV Testing

The USB stick only uses a small sample of blood which is then placed on a certain spot of the device. If the presence of HIV virus is detected, a change in acidity will be triggered. This transforms into an electric signal carrying the result that can be read by a computer or handheld electronic device.

Cooke says they turned the currently “costly and complex equipment” with the size of a photocopier and “shrunk it down to a USB chip.” It also cuts down waiting time for results from days to a couple of minutes.

The medical research gave remarkable results during its testing. When the technology was tested in 991 patients, it gave a 95 percent accuracy rate while the average time for the result to be produced is 20.8 minutes.

DNAe founder and Imperial’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering executive chairman and regius professor Chris Toumazou says the revolutionary tech can transform HIV treatments with a “fast, accurate, and portable solution.” Professor Toumazou says they are already applying the tech in DNAe since treatment is “time-critical” with no room for mistakes.

Millions of People Can Benefit

Regular Testing for HIV is KeyGiphy

The device would be helpful not only for HIV testing but also for monitoring the patient’s viral load. Treatment for HIV called anti-retroviral treatment (ART) decreases the virus level which comes hand-in-hand with a patient’s healthcare, making its monitoring crucial.

Moreover, many remote places in the world, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, do not have access to the right equipment for testing. With the disposable and portable device, testing can reach places like the sub-Saharan Africa and test people and infants. As early as the infection can be discovered, the better chance it is for an individual infected to survive.

The HIV testing through the USB stick, even while the study is still in its early stages, has already shown great potential. And with over 70 million people infected with HIV worldwide, a more convenient testing and treatment monitor would yield better healthcare for the patients.

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