The small device shown above has all the qualities of a huge potential medical success, to not only detect AIDS, but also other diseases like syphilis, malaria and hepatitis. At its heart there is a micro-chip that can analyze a tiny amount of blood (one micro-liter) and search for various diseases. Additional diseases can be added to the test for a marginal cost, possibly because the chip is programmable – We are not certain. The chip itself cost less than a dollar, and the whole setup, with the reader (left), is said to cost about $100. It’s fast
Unlike many currently available tests, the results are available 15mn after the test, which could cut down on anxiety for the patients, but if you take into account that in some regions of the world people can travel for hours or days to have access to the test, getting the results while a doctor is around can avoid a new trip to get a treatment started.
As we mentioned earlier, the cost is relatively low, which makes it more likely to be used often. This is important because detection is a critical phase on the fight against some of those diseases. Once symptoms appear, the fight is usually much harder. Also, awareness of one’s medical status should help limiting spreading the disease further.
This has not been deployed on a massive scale yet, but so far the device has detected 100% of the cases, although it has up to 6% of “false-positives”.
Obviously, it’s usually hard to find funding to develop medical technology that would help poor countries stricken by Malaria (it’s much easier to get money if you have a technology that can fight boldness…), but the research team hopes that by adding detection for diseases that are more common in rich countries, they may get more funding. Creating technology is one thing, but making it into a product might prove to be equally hard. The technology was partly developed by Samuel Sia from Colombia University. [Photo credit: popsci.com]
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