Columbia U. Researchers Develop Smartphone HIV, Syphilis Test
A team of researchers at Columbia University has developed a low-cost, point-of-care thumb drive that plugs into a smartphone and tests for HIV and syphilis in 15 minutes, using just a finger prick of blood. The device performs an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay using power solely drawn from the smartphone, the researchers said.
Samuel Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia and leader of the research team, said the immunoassay meets laboratory quality standards. The team combined microfluidics with recent advances in consumer electronics, making the diagnostics available to almost any population with access to smartphones.
“This kind of capability can transform how healthcare services are delivered around the world,” Sia said.
The dongle, which is small and light enough to fit in one hand, will cost $34 to make — a tiny fraction of the $18,450 average cost of typical ELISA equipment. The assays are run on disposable plastic cassettes with preloaded reagents and give an objective reading, much like more expensive ELISA assays.
Another plus: Thee dongles require little training and needs no maintenance or extra manufacturing, the Columbia team said. It is compatible with any smart device that has an audio jack. — Kellen Owings