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Now, a Low-CostSmartphone-Based Testfor HIV, Syphilis (1 Viewer)


28 Sep 2013
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A $34 device that plugs into the audio
jack of a smartphone was nearly as
effective as far more costly diagnostic
blood testing equipment in identifying
antibodies for HIV and syphilis in a pilot
study in Africa, U.S. researchers said on

The mobile lab device, known as a
dongle, cost $34 to make, compared wit
more than $18,000 for the gold standar
diagnostic equipment. In a pilot study,
the device performed all of the
mechanical, optical and electronic
functions of a lab-based blood test in 1
minutes, using only power drawn from
the smartphone.

It was developed by a team lead by
Samuel Sia, an associate professor at th
Department of Biomedical Engineering at
Columbia University in New York.

To test its effectiveness, health care
workers in Rwanda used the tool to do
finger-prick blood tests on 96 patients,
including women who were at risk of
passing sexually transmitted diseases to
their unborn children.

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The team compared the results with
standard enzyme-linked immunosorbent
assay or ELISA testing, and found the
results were nearly as accurate. The test
has a sensitivity of 92 to 100 percent, a
measurement of how often the tests
accurately identified the target
antibodies, and it had a specificity of 79
to 100 percent, an indicator of how well
the test did at ruling out people who wer
not infected.

"Our work shows that a full laboratory-
quality immunoassay can be run on a
smartphone accessory," Sia said in a

The researchers estimate that with
syphilis, a test with only 70 to 80 percen
sensitivity and specificity that was
performed at the point of care could
reduce deaths tenfold compared with a
perfectly accurate lab-based test,
because the non-lab test would be more
likely to increase syphilis diagnosis.
The study was backed by a grant from
the Gates Foundation and several other
funders and published on Wednesday in
the journal Science Translational

The researchers are planning a larger-
scale clinical trial with the goal of
winning approval by the World Health
Organization for use in developing


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