Cellphone Technology Developed to Detect HIV

In yet another out of the world innovation, scientists say they’ve developed a cellphone-based diagnostic tool that detects the HIV virus.

Is it the kind of technology you can use to snoop into another person’s health status? Well, not exactly that, on the contrary, it allows room for consent.

Nonetheless, the interesting part about this new tool is that it uses an ordinary cell phone and nanotechnology to identify HIV viruses, within a short time. The concept offers a perfect tool that would help monitor the disease in resource-limited regions, looking at its ease of use and the simplicity it offers.

What this Means in Combating HIV Management Challenges

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According to doctors, the reason Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) appears complex to manage is because it cripples the victim’s immune system. The virus subtly targets and attacks healthy cell.

In overview, handling the disease in places that lack infrastructure and qualified medical professionals has been a great challenge. That’s where this tech commands its importance. So, researchers from Women’s Hospital managed to design a high sensitive mobile diagnostic tool to help solve this challenge. A report about the new platform is also described in Nature Communications’ recent publication.

Early Detection is Key for Preventing Disease Progression

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Principle investigator, Hadi Shaflee Ph.D., and colleagues, in their paper, makes it clear that early detection of this virus is critical for controlling disease progression and transmission. “There is also need for a long-term need to monitor HIV, which often turns burdensome to families located afar off from hospitals or clinic centers.”

Adding to that, Shaflee who is also an engineer at Brigham, Renal Division of Medicine said, “With this, we’ve taken a more accessible, low-cost approach, incorporated in a cellphone system that is able to detect acute infections – in this case, HIV.” Among other benefits expected, this would help reduce transmission of the virus as well as assist in making early decisions in case of treatment failure.

In a way, Shaflee and team’s approach is coming in to lower the high costs often attached to other methods used to monitor HIV, which require a process called polymerase reaction (PCR). Their actual goal, in particular, was to create an affordable, easy to use tool for testing and monitoring the disease. Something that can be used in remote parts of the world that face limited access to medical care.

A Glimpse into the Tech

In breakdown, the team deployed the use of nanotechnology – incorporating a microchip, a 3D-printed phone attachment, and a cellphone. With these, they presented a platform that is able to identify nucleic acids of the virus right away, reading from a single drop of blood.

In precise, the device is sensitive to the amplified nucleic acids in HIV. This it does by monitoring the motion of different DNA-engineered beads, directly on-phone. After this, the detection precision can be gauged for accuracy and sensitivity.

So, from different tests, the team says their device was able to detect HIV with a 99.1% specificity and close to 95% sensitivity within an hour; against 1000 virus particles/ml — what they call a clinically relevant threshold value.

Lead author Mohamed S. Draz in closing said, “This idea provides a low-cost diagnostic tool that can be used not only in detecting the HIV virus but also on other different disease-causing microorganisms like bacteria.”