Engineers at Imperial College London and DNA Electronics have created a USB stick that could counteract some of the most difficult elements of treating HIV.
Users would need to place a small sample of blood on the USB stick. The prototype scans for traces of the virus using a mobile phone chip. The presence of the virus initiates an electrical signal that can be read by a computer, laptop, or similar handheld device, according to the announcement.
The researchers noted the machine was able to read 991 samples with 95 percent accuracy with the average time of producing results hitting 20.8 minutes.
“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, Ph.D., senior research author at Imperial College’s Department of Medicine, in a statement.
“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,” added Cooke.
This invention can benefit patients in a number of ways. Individuals in remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa could use this device too quickly and easily check viral loads without sending a sample to the lab.
Additionally, it could help physicians ensure their patients continue to take their medications to prevent viral resistance.
The technology is still in its early stages, but the team plans on investigating the device’s potential identifying pathogens like hepatitis.