Pocket-sized lab

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02 Mar 2015

Researchers have developed a low-cost smartphone accessory that can perform a rapid HIV test. The innovative device — dubbed “the laboratory in your pocket” — was recently piloted by healthcare workers in Rwanda who were able to make a diagnosis from a finger prick of blood in just 15 minutes.

“Our work shows that a full laboratory-quality test can be run on a smartphone,” said lead researcher Samuel K. Sia. “This kind of capability can transform how healthcare services are delivered around the world.”

The device (pictured) requires little user training and needs no maintenance. It also achieves low-power consumption, a must in places where there is an erratic electricity supply. Almost all the patients exposed to the accessory said they would recommend it because of the fast turn-around time of the test and simplicity of the procedure.

Sia said the technology would allow a scale-up of HIV testing at a community level that, along with the availability of immediate antiretroviral therapy, “could nearly stop HIV transmissions and approach elimination of this devastating disease”.