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HIV-Detecting USB: Changing the Lives of HIV Patients

HIV-Detecting USB: Changing the Lives of HIV Patients

Scientists at Imperial College London and tech company DNA Electronics have developed a USB that can diagnose HIV and allow patients to track their own virus levels. This HIV-detecting USB could save the lives of many.

Worldwide, 36.7 million people have HIV. According to AIDS.gov, the majority of HIV-positive people are from disadvantaged countries. A large number are unaware of their status. Others who know they are positive do not have access to necessary equipment.

According to Dr. Graham Cooke, a researcher from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College, “We have taken the job done by this equipment, which is the size of a large photocopier, and shrunk it down to a USB.”

How Does It Work?

The process is simple. The patient places a drop of blood on the USB. A complementary metal-oxide semiconductor detects HIV RNA. The presence of HIV in the patient’s blood triggers a change in acidity in the metal, which is translated into an electrical signal. Users can read the results on a computer.

Scientific Reports published the results of trials in early November. The USB tested 991 blood samples with 95% accuracy. The average wait time to get results was under 21 minutes. The process is quick and accurate. The technology is still in its early stages and will not be on the market for a while, but according to reports, the HIV-detecting USB is relatively inexpensive to produce.

Easily Used Outside of Hospitals

The developers want this device to reach patients living in regions where hospitals have limited resources to monitor their patients’ blood HIV levels.

The device is not restricted to medical facilities. Patients in remote areas can use the device to monitor their own HIV levels. Tracking virus levels helps patients receive accurate antiviral treatments and prevent the development of drug resistance.

Cook said, “HIV treatment has dramatically improved over the last 20 years…However, monitoring viral load is crucial to the success of HIV treatment.”

Soon, this HIV-detecting USB may be instrumental to treatment in underserved areas around the globe.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr