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Mobile device successfully performs HIV laboratory-grade tests, says study

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A low-cost mobile device can provide a blood-based HIV test with laboratory-level accuracy and real-time synchronization of patient health record data, according to an article published Jan. 17 in Clinical Chemistry, the journal of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry.

Researchers say the portable solution could serve as an alternative for those in resource-limited healthcare settings that don't have access to laboratory diagnostic equipment and patients' health records. The mobile device combines cell-phone and satellite communication technologies with fluid miniaturization techniques for performing enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), a fundamental tool of clinical immunology used as an initial screen for HIV detection.

"We assessed the device's ability to perform HIV serodiagnostic testing in Rwanda and synchronize results in real time with electronic health records," states the article. "We tested serum, plasma, and whole blood samples collected in Rwanda and on a commercially available sample panel made of mixed antibody titers."

The study included HIV testing on 167 Rwandan patients evaluated for HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections yielded diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of 100 percent and 99 percent, respectively. The results for testing on 40 Rwandan whole-blood samples demonstrated diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of 100 percent and 100 percent, respectively. In addition, the mobile device  successfully transmitted all whole-blood test results from a Rwandan clinic to a cloud-based medical records database. 

"For all samples in the commercial panel, the device produced results in agreement with a leading ELISA test, including detection of weakly positive samples that were missed by existing rapid tests," according to the article. "The device operated autonomously with minimal user input, produced each result 10 times faster than benchtop ELISA, and consumed as little power as a mobile phone."

In related news, University of Rhode Island researchers recently developed a handheld, smartphone-enabled blood-testing system that could eliminate the days-long wait for test results. This "lab-on-a-chip technology" requires just a drop of blood for analysis. The blood is placed on a disposable, credit card-sized plastic polymer cartridge and inserted into a hand-held biosensor, where it reacts with reagents so a sensor can detect certain disease biomarkers.

To learn more:
- read the Clinical Chemistry article

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