Columbia University researchers have created a new smartphone dongle compatible with iPhones and Androids that can test for HIV and syphilis, requiring only 15 minutes and a tiny drop of blood to get a result. According to Engadget, the $34 dongle doesn’t even require a battery to work, and is able to perform enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect HIV antibody, treponemal-specific antibody for syphilis and non-treponemal antibody for active syphilis infection.
“To test, you prick a finger and put your blood on the device’s plastic collector. After that, you’ll have to launch its accompanying app and physically push a button down to release the reagents needed for the test (as shown in the video below). It’s pressing a button, instead of automating the process, that allows researchers to eliminate the need for a battery. The device gets whatever little processing power it needs from the smartphone, tablet or computer itself — yep, it works with other types of electronics, because it plugs in via the headphone jack.”
For those who aren’t aware, ELISA machines cost around $20,000, and none of the labs currently offer the three tests needed to detect those diseases in a single format.
The group of researchers behind the dongle was led by Samuel K. Sia, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering. Sia and his team have been developing mobile HIV/syphilis testing labs for a long time, having previously created the mChip, a credit card-sized device that can test for STDs. Unlike this new dongle though, each $1 mChip requires a $100 diagnostic kit to perform the tests.
Check out the following video demo of how the HIV smartphone dongle works: