Researchers develop USB stick test for detecting HIV

Researchers with Imperial College London and DNA Electronics have created a new USB stick that can detect HIV in blood. The device works somewhat like a blood sugar monitor, and involves placing a drop of blood on a sensor. The USB stick is then connected to a computing device where the results are determined and presented. The test could, among other things, allow medical professionals to detect and monitor HIV in patients in rural and remote locations.

With traditional technology, monitoring the viral level in a patient's blood takes three days or longer and is somewhat cumbersome. The testing process is even longer and more expensive for remote locations, as the blood sample must be sent to a laboratory which may be a far distance away. Unfortunately, this kind of viral testing isn't available in some parts of the world for this reason.

The newly developed USB stick test eliminates many of these problems, removing the laboratory middle-man as well as the long wait time. Results are presented in less than half an hour. The USB stick is made using a 'phone chip,' which experiences an electrical signal caused by a change in acidity, which is itself caused by the HIV virus. The device has demonstrated a 95-percent accuracy across nearly a thousand tests.

The sensor portion upon which the blood droplet is placed is disposable. The USB stick holds a lot of promise for certain regions in Africa where instances of HIV infection are high but patient monitoring options are greatly limited or entirely unavailable. The stick may one day be able to detect the presence and levels of some other viruses, as well.

SOURCE: EurekAlert