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Mobile Devices to test HIV in 15 Minutes
Published on 27-01-2013 - at 01:32' by Dusabemungu Ange De La Victoire

A professor at Columbia Engineering has taken his innovative lab-on-a-chip and developed a way to not only check a patient’s HIV status anywhere in the world with just a finger prick, but also synchronize the results automatically and instantaneously with central health-care records-10 times faster than the benchtop ELISA, a broadly used diagnostic technique.

With this Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering has described a major advance towards providing people in remote areas of the world with laboratory-quality diagnostic services traditionally available only in centralized health care settings.

The device was field-tested in Rwanda by a collaborative team from the Sia lab and ICAP at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

"We’ve built a handheld mobile device that can perform laboratory-quality HIV testing, and do it in just 15 minutes and on finger-pricked whole blood," Sia said.

"And, unlike current HIV rapid tests, our device can pick up positive samples normally missed by lateral flow tests, and automatically synchronize the test results with patient health records across the globe using both the cell phone and satellite networks," he claimed.

Sia collaborated with Claros Diagnostics (a company he co-founded, now called OPKO Diagnostics) to develop a pioneering strategy for an integrated microfluidic-based diagnostic device-the mChip-that can perform complex laboratory assays, and do so with such simplicity that these tests can easily be carried out anywhere, including in resource-limited settings, at a very low cost.

This new technology, which combines cell phone and satellite communication technologies with fluid miniaturization techniques for performing all essential ELISA functions, could lead to diagnosis and treatment for HIV-infected people who, because they cannot get to centralized health care centers, do not get tested or treated.

Working with ICAP, OPKO, the Rwandan Ministry of Health, and Rwandan collaborators at Muhima Hospital and two health clinics-Projet San Francisco and Projet Ubuzima, Sia and his team assessed the device’s ability to perform HIV testing and then synchronized results in real time with the patients’ electronic health records.

They successfully tested over 200 serum, plasma, and whole blood samples, all collected in Rwanda.

The mobile device also successfully transmitted all whole-blood test results from a Rwandan clinic to a medical records database stored on the cloud. The device produced results in agreement with a leading ELISA test, including detection of weakly positive samples that were missed by existing rapid tests.

The device operated autonomously with minimal user input, produced each result in 15 minutes (compared to 3 hours with the benchtop ELISA), and consumed as little power as a mobile phone.

The study was recently published online in Clinical Chemistry, and in the print April 2013 issue. (ANI)

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