By Liz Connor
LONDON- SCIENTISTS have developed a home HIV testing kit could return a diagnosis of the virus in just 30 minutes.
Researchers from Imperial College London and DNA Electronics worked together to create a discreet USB stick which uses a drop of blood to detect HIV in patients.
Tests for the virus can usually take up to two weeks to process, but researchers hope that the prototype could allow people to test themselves at home.
The device works by extracting a drop of blood from the finger. If the virus is present, the acidity of the sample will change – triggering an electrical signal that can be read by a computer, laptop or handheld device.
After testing the device on 991 blood samples, the authors of the study reported that the device returned 95 per cent accurate results.
The kit can also return a viral load count – a measurement of the number of HIV virus particles in a millimeter of your blood.
The count can help to provide information on a person’s health status, and how well antiretroviral therapy is controlling the virus.
“Monitoring viral load is crucial to the success of HIV treatment,” study coauthor Graham Cooke of Imperial College London said in a statement.
“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.”
The prototype remains in the early stages of development, but the team believe that in the future, the device could be particularly beneficial in remote regions of Africa, where many people currently do not have easy access to testing facilities.
They now say they are looking into whether the USB stick could also be replicated to test for other viruses, such as hepatitis. – Evening Standard