In an attempt to help less develop countries better detect and prevent HIV, a team of researchers from the Imperial College of London has developed a portable USB HIV tool. This unique medical device can be used by patients to determine if they have contracted the disease or if their antiretroviral medication is efficient at combating the disease.
The device was developed by the Department of Medicine from the above-mentioned institution in collaboration with DNA Electronics. According to Dr. Graham Coke, one of the project’s co-authors, the device was specifically created as to help patients from less developed countries.
As the doctor explains, the standard HIV testing procedure takes several days to complete, and the machinery needed to process the blood sample taken from the patient are complex and hard to acquire.
Furthermore, the blood sample which will undergo testing will have to be transported from the clinic to a center specialized in these sort of medical examination. But HIV testing procedures will dramatically chance once the USB HIV tool is made available.
The principle behind the USB-based medical device is simple: the device is outfitted with a highly-sensitive sensor that is able to detect certain changes in blood chemistry. More specifically, the device is tuned to sniff out acidity shifts.
If the levels are high, it means that either the patient have HIV, if he was not previously diagnosed, or that the antiretroviral treatment administered is ineffective. Furthermore, as Coke points out, the device can also be used by the patients’ attending physicians to ascertain if they took their medication or not.
According to the team, in just 30 minutes the USB HIV tool is able to determine whether or not the patient has HIV. The team has already tested out the device on over 900 blood samples. The device was able to sniff out an HIV-associated sign with a 95 percent accuracy. Moreover, the average time taken to conduct a test was 20 minutes.
Doctor Graham Coke added that the results are indeed promising, but further tests are required before the medical device can be commercialized and used by patients and doctors.
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