At a time when the international scientists are working rigorously in direction of finding effective medication to treat the highly fatal HIV/AIDS, a team of researchers at the Columbia University has made a remarkable invention of a low-cost smartphone accessory or dongle that promises to perform a test for simultaneously detecting three highly infectious and dangerous disease markers after taking blood from finger prick in just 15 minutes.
The research team behind the project characterizes the device as a historic one which replicates for the first time all optical, electronic and mechanical functions of a lab-based blood test.
The research work was led by Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at School of Engineering and Applied Science in Columbia University.
Specifically, the device performs an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) without requirement of any stored energy because all the necessary power required is drawn from the smartphone.
Explaining the working mechanism of the device, Sia said, “It performs a triplexed immunoassay not currently available in a single test format, HIV antibody, treponemal-specific antibody for syphilis, and non-treponemal antibody for active syphilis infection.”
The micro device can get easily connected to a smartphone or computer. Recently, it was piloted in Rwanda by health care workers who tested 96 patients by examining their whole blood obtained through a finger prick.
“A full laboratory-quality immunoassay can be run on a smartphone accessory,” Sia asserted.
Researchers are finding the development as a major breakthrough in the screening and treatment of such type of fatal disease. They also said that early diagnosis and treatment of the infection in pregnant mothers can largely lower the adverse consequences to both mothers and their babies.
Sia said the dongle is likely to have an estimated manufacturing cost of USD 34, which is much lower than USD 18,450 that typical ELISA equipment runs.
Concluding the study, the authors said, “By raising detection of syphilis infections, we might be able to reduce deaths by 10-fold. We might be able to scale up HIV testing at the community level with immediate antiretroviral therapy that could nearly stop HIV transmissions and approach elimination of this devastating disease.”
The research work detailing about the device was reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.