Scientists at Imperial College London and spinout company DNA Electronics have developed a USB stick-based test to measure levels of HIV in the blood that produces results less than half an hour.
The computer plug-in needs a single drop of blood to conduct the test and transmit the results to a mobile device. The technology could allow patients to monitor HIV levels at home with 95 percent accuracy.
Current tests for HIV involve sending blood samples to a lab and can take up to three days, according to the researchers. The new device not only tests for the presence of the virus, but can also help patients monitor their viral levels, and can indicate whether anti-retroviral treatment is effective.
“HIV treatment has dramatically improved over the last 20 years – to the point that many diagnosed with the infection now have a normal life expectancy,” said Dr Graham Cooke from Imperial’s Department of Medicine, senior author of the research.
“However, monitoring viral load is crucial to the success of HIV treatment. 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.”
In the latest research, the technology was used to test 991 blood samples, producing results in an average time of 20.8 minutes, and performing with 95 per cent accuracy. DNA Electronics is already using the same technology to develop a test for detecting bacterial and fungal sepsis and antibiotic resistance, while the Imperial team is exploring the possibility of using the same principles to test for other viruses such as hepatitis.