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New Handheld Mobile Device Performs HIV Testing

Clinicians get lab-quality results in 15 minutes (Jan. 18)

New research that appeared online in Clinical Chemistry shows that a handheld mobile device can check patients’ human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status with just a finger prick, and can synchronize the results in real time with electronic health records. This technology takes a step toward providing remote areas of the world with diagnostic services traditionally available only in centralized healthcare settings, according to the report.

Of the 34 million people infected with HIV worldwide, 68% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, with South and Southeast Asia having the second greatest burden of disease. Many HIV-infected people in these regions are unable to get tested or treated because they can’t easily travel to centralized healthcare centers. This creates a significant economic burden on already-poor nations, with the HIV epidemic estimated to cause a 1.5% annual loss in gross domestic product each year for the worst-affected countries. The epidemic has also created 16.6 million AIDS orphans — children who have lost one or both parents to the disease.

A low-cost mobile device that performs HIV testing could help combat these trends as well as the overall global epidemic by enabling the diagnosis and treatment of HIV-infected people in resource-limited settings, the authors say. In the new study, researchers designed a device that provides all of the essential functions of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays — the most commonly used laboratory diagnostic for HIV. The authors show that the device performs laboratory-quality HIV testing in 15 minutes using finger-pricked whole blood.

The device also detects weakly positive samples and uses cellphone and satellite networks to automatically synchronize test results with patient health records from anywhere in the world. Because of this real-time data upload, the mobile device allows policymakers and epidemiologists to monitor disease prevalence across geographical regions quickly and effectively. This could improve effectiveness in allocating medications to different communities and patient care in general, the authors say.

Source: American Association of Clinical Chemistry; January 18, 2013.

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