• Smartphone dongle that detects HIV and syphilis

Smartphone dongle that detects HIV and syphilis

A revolutionary smartphone app could make a big difference in halting the march of HIV/AIDS and syphilis worldwide.

The device is a dongle that attaches to and is powered by a smartphone. It can simultaneously detect three infectious disease markers from only a finger prick of blood, according to Medical News Today. The test takes only 15 minutes.

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The dongle runs assays on disposable plastic cassettes that contain reagents, or the substances required for chemical analysis. The dongle can be carried in one hand.

Power and data are transmitted to the dongle through a smartphone's audio jack. The power-hungry electrical pump used in labs was replaced on the dongle with a "one-push vacuum" to load the pre-loaded reagents on the cassettes.

The dongle is the first device capable of replicating all the electronic, mechanical and optical functions of a lab-based blood test normally carried out in larger laboratories. It's been successfully field-tested in Rwanda.

HIV and syphilis are more common in the developing world with limited access to healthcare. Experts said this cheap and lightweight dongle that diagnoses on the spot and that doesn't rely on laboratory facilities could be truly groundbreaking.

"Coupling microfluidics with recent advances in consumer electronics can make certain lab-based diagnostics accessible to almost any population with access to smartphones," states lead researcher Samuel Sia. "This kind of capability can transform how health care services are delivered around the world."

This innovative device could help bring diagnostic testing out of the laboratories and straight to the poorest people across the world. It's nearly 540 times cheaper than current lab testing machines, according to The Daily Mail.

The software that runs the test was developed by biomedical experts at Columbia University.