Date :Friday, February 6th, 2015 | Time : 11:14 |ID: 9832 | Print

Smartphones may be used as HIV diagnostic tool

SHAFAQNA –  Smartphone technology has evolved into allowing users to detect the presence of disease in the body, provided they have the right accessories. Researchers and engineers at Columbia University have released a smartphone invention termed a “dongle” that uses a pinprick of blood to determine the existence of syphilis or HIV. This is achieved in about 15 minutes.

The device functions using three markers for sexually transmitted diseases to detect elevated levels of the antibodies that fight syphilis and HIV in the pinprick of blood from the finger. Wan Laksanasopin, a biomedical engineering PhD student at Columbia who assisted with the development of the device, explains that higher-than-normal levels of antibodies are an indication that the immune system is in infection mode, reacting, and that the patient is positive for that disease.

As an accessory to any smartphone or tablet, the device is attached using the audiojack. Following directions on the screen, the app installed on the device analyzes data inputted from the dongle and reports a diagnosis. Currently the team from Colombia has developed an iOS app only.

HIV and syphilis are sexually transmitted diseases commonly transmitted from mother to child, most prominently in third world countries. The first tests of the device took place at 96 health clinics and hospitals in Rwanda, where the mother to child disease transmission ranges from 15 to 45 percent with no intervention plan. Effective intervention strategies have been show to reduce this number down to 5 percent. The dongle from Columbia University has the potential to make a difference in developing countries, but it still has bugs that need to be engineered out before the device can be manufactured and used as a mobile diagnostic tool in disease zones worldwide.

Standard lab-based diagnostic tools for HIV and syphilis are replicated in the dongle, but experts say that this mobile technology should not be allowed to completely replace laboratory testing on the large scale. “Although an encouraging development,” Dr. Ambreen Khalil, an infectious disease specialist, states “there are significant limitations, such as comparison with confirmatory tests in standardized laboratories.”

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