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Future HIV tests might use a USB flash drive-like device

Scientists at the Imperial College London and DNA Electronics have created a device which could help to save lives of HIV suffers.

The device, which is about as small as a USB flash drive, creates an electrical signal which can be read by any PC or handheld device with a USB port.

The “flash drive” uses a mobile phone chip which requires a small sample of blood placed on it. Blood containing the HIV virus will differ to non-infected blood by way of acidity. The chip can read these acidity levels and subsequently notify patients, doctors or researchers.

According to the scientists, 991 blood samples were tested with a 95% accuracy rating with an average time of 20.8 minutes taken to produce the result.

HIV tests in the future may be performed using a USB flash drive

“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,” senior research and author Dr Graham Cooke explains.

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,” he concludes.

This technology also could benefit Africa in the future. According to UNAIDS, seven million people within South Africa are living with HIV.

Following their success, the research team is now looking at ways of using the technology to detect hepatitis infections, bacterial and fungal sepsis, and antibiotic resistance.

Feature image: Imperial College London