Smartphone app aims for faster, more accurate, body fluid testing

University of Cambridge researchers have developed a new smartphone app that promises to enhance the accuracy of colorimetric tests for diabetes, kidney disease and urinary tract infections.

The Colorimetrix software also allows test-strip results to be shared real-time with medical professionals for quicker diagnosis and treatment, according to an announcement.

"This app has the potential to help in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in the developing world, bringing the concept of mobile healthcare to reality," said Ali Yetisen, a Ph.D. student in the department of chemical engineering and biotechnology, who led the research. "By quickly getting medical data from the field to doctors or centralized laboratories, it may help slow or limit the spread of pandemics." 

The app uses a smartphone's camera to take a photo of a test strip result and, using a special algorithm, converts the data into a numerical concentration value that appears within seconds on the phone's screen. The result then can be stored, sent to a healthcare professional, or directly analyzed by a doctor via the phone for diagnosis.

The app, available for Android and iOS, has shown accurate readings on glucose, protein and pH concentrations from commercially-available urine test strips without requiring any external hardware, according to the researchers.

"This app can substitute for laboratory equipment, saving money to clinics and research institutions," app developer Leo Martinez told FierceMobileHealthcare.

Specifically, Martinez said, the app costs just a few hundred dollars, compared to use of a lab reflectometer of spectrophotometer, which can cost as much as $3,000.

The research team is planning to use the app for clinical testing of kidney function and infections at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

According to an article in the peer-reviewed journal Lab on a Chip published last summer, researchers at UCLA and the California NanoSystems Institute developed a smartphone device that accurately determines albumin (a protein) in urine. Weighing about one third of a pound, the Albumin Tester is installed on a smartphone's camera, where test and control tubes are inserted from the side and are excited by a battery-powered laser diode. An Android app processes the raw images in less than one second and the device transmits the test results to a database or healthcare provider.

Meanwhile, researchers at Brown University created a biochip that can measure glucose levels in saliva with the same basic accuracy as blood tests, according to a paper published the scientific journal Nano Letters in December 2011.

For more information:
- read the announcement