Latest Medical Gadgets- A USB stick can show HIV test results in under 30 minutes

Latest Medical Gadgets- A USB stick can show HIV test results in under 30 minutes

Though there is no cure for the
human immunodeficiency virus, we
now know enough about it to slow its
growth within the human body, and
to prevent its spread from person to
But to do that, an HIV patient (and,
ideally, their health care provider)
needs to first know they are infected
and second be able to regularly
measure the levels of the virus in
their blood regularly to make sure
their treatment is working.
That’s a major challenge in sub-
Saharan Africa, where HIV has
become pandemic (more than 24
million of the 37 million people
worldwide with HIV live there).
That’s because in sub-Saharan
Africa, many live in rural regions
where hospitals or clinics are hours
or even days travel away.
Traditional HIV testing can take days
to show results—which means many
in the region would need to make
multiple trips to hospitals and clinics
to get their tests and results. It’s a
major deterrent from testing, and is
in part responsible for the spread of
the virus. For patients who know
they have HIV, the distance also
makes monitoring their condition
near impossible.
Researchers at Imperial College
London may have a solution. They’ve
developed a USB stick that, in under
30 minutes, can measure the
presence and amount of HIV in a
person’s blood. The researchers
tested 991 blood samples using the
USB stick and compared the results
with traditional testing methods—the
USB stick was 95% accurate. They
published the results of their study in

USB HIV test. (Imperial College London) 
The new diagnostic tool, co-created
by the university and biotech
company DNA Electronics, requires
simply putting a single drop of blood
onto a designated spot on the USB
stick. The device contains a
mechanism that can detect if there’s
any HIV genetic material—RNA—in
the drop of blood, and if so, how
much. Then, when the stick is
connected to a laptop or handheld
device, the data are automatically
delivered to an app where the
patient can quickly read his or her
One of the most effective HIV
treatments currently, called anti-
retroviral treatment, reduces virus
levels to near zero. However, in
some cases, the virus may develop a
resistance to medication or therapy,
causing the virus to resurface. To
catch such developments early,
patients can use the devices for
monitoring purposes. “The
disposable test could be used by HIV
patients to monitor their own
treatment and help patients in
remote regions of the world, where
more standard HIV tests are
inaccessible,” the authors of the
study write.
For now, it’s still in the proof-of-
concept stage, and years away from
hitting the market.
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. Although home
tests for HIV do exist, those currently
available in the market require lab
processing (pdf), cost upwards of
$40 , and take up to three days to
process from the date the sample is
Eventually, the device could be used
to test for hepatitis and other
diseases—one at a time or all
together. “The technology has the
potential to be scalable for the
detection of multiple pathogens
simultaneously,” the researcher
write in the study.

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