Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a USB stick that can rapidly measure the presence and amount of HIV in a person’s blood, estimated to take under 30 minutes.
The device works by detecting and measuring HIV RNA in a drop of blood, and when connected to a laptop or handheld device, automatically sending the data to an application, where the results can be read by patient and care-provider. Testing of 991 blood samples (including comparison with traditional methods) demonstrated 95% accuracy. The device is still in the proof-of-concept stage, and will need years of further development to reach the market. Yet the already foreseen use is to provide HIV-positive patients a way to cost-effectively monitor their condition and quickly identify any early resistance to medication while still at home -- a prospect that is of importance in low-income communities with high HIV infection rates.