Smartphone Accessory Can Diagnose HIV And Syphilis Infections In 15 Minutes

This hot, new iPhone accessory isn’t one you’ll find at the Apple Store. It’s been built to help healthcare workers perform complex blood tests while they’re out in the field and with no access to a lab required.

While it may not look like much, this little dongle can diagnose HIV and syphilis infections with just a tiny amount of blood (a finger prick, sort of like how diabetics do at-home testing) and 15 short minutes to analyze it. No external power source is even required — it draws what little juice it needs from the host smartphone’s battery via the headphone jack. It pipes data over the same connection, and a companion app displays the test results on-screen.

The device was designed by researchers at Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. It’s already been used to test nearly 100 patients in Rwanda as part of a program aimed at reducing mother-to-child transmission. Familiarizing users with the app and device didn’t take long, either. During the trial, workers only required about 30 minutes of hands-on training.

Columbia’s immunoassay tester isn’t just a great deal smaller and more convenient than the lab equipment that’s traditionally been used to perform this kind of analysis. ELISA set-ups can take up a few feet of bench space, and they also cost a whole lot more money.

ELISA equipment can run upwards of $20,000. This little iPhoneaccessory costs around $34 to manufacture. Even with a health mark-up (vertical markets like medicine don’t tend to get price breaks), it’ll still be incredibly cheap to deploy on a large scale.

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