USB Stick Can Detect HIV
Science & Tech / /
Scientists from the UK have developed a USB device that can quickly and accurately let patients self-monitor their HIV level.
Scientists from Imperial College London in collaboration with technology firm DNA Electronics created a USB stick that works just like an at-home HIV testing kit, detecting a presence of the virus from just a drop of blood. It is designed to be fast, accurate and simple to use, works with 95% accuracy and takes less than 30 minutes, which is a big improvement compared to the tests that already exist.
By putting a drop of blood on the USB stick it changes the acidity levels of the metal in the USB. That consequently makes the chip inside the USB note the change in acidity and to produce an electrical signal. The electrical signal is than connected to a computer or other smart device, where the results can be read.
Despite detecting the HIV virus the device could be useful for those taking antiretroviral medication. It allows patients to monitor whether there is a progress by the medication in keeping HIV levels down, or the body has developed a resistance.
The device offers HIV positive people to monitor their health as easy as a diabetic checking their blood sugar levels, and it could be an important necessity in more remote locations where there is a limited access to medical care.
“HIV treatment has dramatically improved over the last 20 years – to the point that many diagnosed with the infection now have a normal life expectancy,” said Graham Cooke, senior author of the research, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College. “However, monitoring viral load is crucial to the success of HIV treatment. At the moment, testing often requires costly and complex equipment that can take a couple of days to produce a result. We have taken the job done by this equipment, which is the size of a large photocopier, and shrunk it down to a USB chip.”
This technology is not yet available on the market and most probably will not make it soon, but it could lead to a big improvements when it does.