The average diagnostic test for HIV are based on measuring the antibodies body has created against viral particles. A positive test, in this case, means you have the virus in your body, and you are HIV positive. On the other hand, the dominant treatment for HIV, so-called HAART treatment, is the collection of drugs trying to lower the concentration of the virus in the body to the minimum levels and to control clinical manifestations of the infection. To follow the progress and the results of the therapy, the standard diagnostic test is not adequate. In this case, clinicians have to keep an eye on the concentration of virus, and there are specific tests to measure this.
Unfortunately, these tests require complex and expensive equipment, as well as at least three days (often more) to provide results. Considering distant areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where medical assistance is difficult to reach, this kind of testing is completely unavailable. However, things are changing to positive since the Imperial College London and DNA Electronics have come up with the amazingly handy device.
The recently designed device requires a small sample of blood, and the results are provided within half an hour. The technology uses cell phone chip, and the drop of blood is placed on the specified spot on USB stick. USB stick is connected to the computer through the adequate application. If the virus particles are present in the bloodstream, the acidity of the testing medium changes generates the charge registered by a chip. Chip transforms it into an electrical signal, and the results are displayed on the computer screen via USB. The device is rather fast and accurate, and it requires no significant room, maintenance or additional technology.
Clinicians have great expectations from this convenient device. The most important are the possibility to keep up with the patients taking HAART easily and to follow their blood level of viral particles continuously. The aim of the therapy is to lower the concentration of virus as much as possible, but there are multiple situations when the infection rebounds. In these moments, it is essential to catch the increase of virus concentration and to adjust the therapy. Another benefit refers to following if the patients are sticking to their therapies regularly. Also, since the device requires no other specific equipment, it is the perfect solution for remote observation of the patients and monitoring of the distant areas.
Currently, the device is still being carefully tested in clinical practice, and the results are statistically processed, but the general plan is to make it available for worldwide use some time shortly. It particularly refers to areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with the extreme percent of the HIV-positive population. Also, the same team of scientists is trying to use this device for the same type of testing on other viruses and bacteria. Development of the diagnostic test for hepatitis is the current plan.