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Could a $34 Smartphone device improve HIV diagnosis in Africa?

Friday, February 27, 2015 - 01:42

A dongle that plugs into a Smartphone mimics a lab-based blood test for HIV and syphilis and can detect the diseases in 15 minutes, say researchers. Tara Cleary reports.

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STORY: This smartphone dongle could help save lives. It‎ works with an app to test blood for HIV and syphilis - from finger prick to test takes just 15 minutes. ‎ Research carried out in Rwanda showed it to be almost as accurate as regular lab tests. Sam Sia, from New York's Columbia University, says the gadget could be a godsend for HIV patients in remote areas of Africa. SOUNDBITE: SAM SIA, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, SAYING (English): "A lot of these patients they simple cannot travel the distances to testing clinics to get their blood drawn and get the results, which means that they're not treated for these conditions. And in this specific case, pregnant women, if they're not treated for HIV or syphilis, they will pass these diseases on to their newborns and a lot of times the newborns aren't even born alive." The test is simple. A drop of blood is drawn and placed on a cassette which is inserted into the dongle. When connected to a Smartphone, the app starts it's analysis. And the device doesn't only test for HIV and syphilis. SOUNDBITE: SAM SIA, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, SAYING (English): "We can certainly look at other STDs such as hepatitis, herpes and so forth as well as other infectious diseases including malaria and so forth, but also chronic diseases. So, cancer, diabetes." And Sia says the result could be much more cost-efficient healthcare. The device took 10 years to make and costs $34, a fraction of the price of traditional diagnostic equipment. The researchers are planning a larger-scale clinical trial and hope to win the World Health Organisation's approval for use in developing countries.

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Could a $34 Smartphone device improve HIV diagnosis in Africa?

Friday, February 27, 2015 - 01:42