Smartphone accessory provides STD testing


Testing yourself for STDs via your smartphone may sound futuristic, but Columbia University researchers say the idea isn’t so out of reach. In fact, they’ve already seen encouraging results testing a device that does just that.

The device, which is designed as a dongle that connects directly into Android and iOS phones through the headphone jack, specifically looks for markers for HIV and syphilis. All that’s required is a blood sample that the dongle extracts by way of a quick finger prick. From there, the device delivers the results in just 15 minutes.

“Our work shows that a full laboratory-quality immunoassay can be run on a smartphone accessory,” Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, says in a statement. “Coupling microfluidics with recent advances in consumer electronics can make certain lab-based diagnostics accessible to almost any population with access to smartphones. This kind of capability can transform how health care services are delivered around the world.”

The device was recently tested on 96 patients in Rwanda, 97 percent of whom said they would recommend it to others. Quick results and simplicity of use was among the top reasons why. What’s more is that the health care workers who administered the tests required just half an hour of training.

In a Columbia University statement, Sia says the technology could lead to a 10-fold decrease in fatal syphilis cases. The device’s ease of use and inexpensive price tag also makes it an attractive vehicle for HIV testing worldwide. Researchers estimate a $34 manufacturing cost.

The technology isn’t the first to use smartphones to manage HIV/AIDS. Social media apps like HIV Connect aim to unite the HIV community. HIV iChart is another app that helps users understand the way different anti-HIV drugs interact with one another. Simply put in the names of the drugs and the app will alert you as to whether an adverse reaction should be expected.

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