November 10, 2016

Scientists Develop HIV Test That Uses USB Stick In Computers

Scientists Develop HIV Test That Uses USB Stick In Computers


UK scientists have developed a new type of HIV test which can plug into your computer, like a USB memory stick.

Researchers claim the device can detect the virus in a drop of blood, generating a signal which can be read by a laptop or handheld device.

The disposable technology could help patients to monitor their own treatment and produces an accurate result in just 30 minutes.

Developed by a team Imperial College London and diagnostics firm DNA Electronics, its makers say the USB test could be used to help patients in remote regions manage the condition more effectively.

Like current diagnostic tests, it detects the amount of virus in the patient’s blood.

But unlike standard HIV tests, the USB chip can produce a result in minutes rather than days.

UK scientists have developed a USB test (pictured) which can detect levels of HIV in a drop of blood.
UK scientists have developed a USB test (pictured) which can detect levels of HIV in a drop of blood.

‘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 Dr Graham Cooke, a clinician scientist at Imperial and senior author of the research, published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

He added: ‘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.’

Current treatments for HIV involve powerful anti-retroviral drugs, which reduce the amount of virus in blood cells.

While these drugs are effective, patients need regular blood tests to check the viral count.

If the drugs stop working, or if the virus becomes immune to them, then a key sign will be an increase in the amount of HIV in their blood.

Routine HIV tests can check for the presence of the virus, but not the amount in the bloodstream.

The hope is that quick and effective diagnostic tests like the USB stick could enable patients to use a self-test kit, just like those with diabetes use to check blood sugar levels.

In addition, doctors could not only monitor if patients are taking their medication properly, but be able to spot viral resistance against the drugs.

Professor Chris Toumazou, founder of DNAe and Regius Professor at Imperial, said: ‘This is a great example of how this new analysis technology has the potential to transform how patients with HIV are treated by providing a fast, accurate and portable solution.’

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