Smartphone dongle speeds HIV, syphilis testing

Columbia University biomedical engineers have developed a smartphone dongle and app that work as mobile blood test lab for viruses that cause AIDS and the bacteria that leads to syphilis, according to a Live Science report.

The dongle device attaches to the smartphone's headphone jack and features a one-time-use cassette and hand-activated pump which draws the blood into the dongle to mix with chemicals for identifying HIV and syphilis blood markers, working as an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test, Samuel Sia, research leader an associate professor of biomedical engineering, tells Live Science. Blood test results take about 15 minutes. The research initially was published in Science Translational Medicine.

The testing device is geared toward rural areas and developing regions, researchers say, and is designed for facilities lacking highly trained medical professionals.

"People [developing such devices] were not focused on usability," Sia tells Live Science, estimating the device cost at about $34. "If you have a test that takes 20 steps and a laboratory staff, that's not going to make an impact on society." The typical equipment needed to run the traditional test at a laboratory would require $18,000, according to the researchers. Article