New USB Stick to Test HIV-1 in 30 Minutes

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Image Source: Imperial College London/DNA Electronics,Gizmodo

Researchers at the Imperial College of London with the association of tech firm DNA Electronics has created a USB stick that can measure the level of HIV virus from one drop of blood.

Project lead, Dr. Graham Cook informed that a traditional HIV monitoring equipment checks the viremia (presence of virus) and “virus load”. Such tests are expensive and unwieldy and it takes days to get the report. But the small built device is not only portable but can produce the result within 30 minutes.

The USB device takes a drop of blood from the patient , it senses the acidity level in the blood due to virus activity and sends the information as electrical signals. The USB connected to a PC or laptop can show the report of the sample.

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Monitoring the change in viral reaction is very crucial in HIV treatment. Though there is proper medication for the treatment but a lack of regular observation and report sometimes cause problems. As some drugs are not very affeceffective in certain levels of virus infection, they can now use this disposable test to monitor patients and also reach out to people in remote locations.

Image Source: Imperial College London/DNA Electronics,Gizmodo
Image Source: Imperial College London/DNA Electronics,Gizmodo

The research was first published in the journal of Scientific Reports. It is claimed to produce a highly accurate result of the sample. The USB tested 991 blood samples with an accuracy of 95%. The average time to produce results was found around 20.8 minutes.

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The technology is still in its early stages and under constant development, but it is available for regular monitoring just like diabetic patients check their blood sugar levels. To avoid critical conditions like regeneration of retrovirus this device will be effective and crucial.

“Viral load is crucial to the success of HIV treatment” lead Scientist Graham Cooke explained. “At the moment, testing often requires costly and complex equipment that can take a couple of days to produce a result. We have taken the job done by this equipment, which is the size of a large photocopier, and shrunk it down to a USB chip.”

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