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Thursday 27th June 2019

Chip could mean speedy HIV testing

20th September 2011

New technology developed for use in Africa could drastically affect the way certain diseases are diagnosed in remote regions, according to a recent Rwandan study.


The technology, known as the mChip, allows HIV test results from a single drop of blood to be delivered in about 15 minutes, and has been specially designed for use in remote regions.

The company has measured the accuracy rate of the device at 100%, meaning it is virtually equivalent to current blood-testing methods used to diagnose HIV.

Study co-author Lambert Mwambaragwe, a health researcher at Project Ubuzima in Rwanda, said that early diagnosis among people living with HIV/AIDS had always been described as a major hurdle.

The chip is easy to manufacture, and costs about US$100 (£64).

Each test costs a fraction of a pound, and the device could theoretically be adapted to the diagnosis of many other diseases, including hepatitis and malaria.

Mwambaragwe said that making medical diagnosis more affordable would reduce infectious disease risk in vulnerable populations.

The device uses nanotechnology, and operates in much the same way as standard laboratory diagnostic tests.

The miniature components that make up the mChip can all be produced cheaply, and the device does not even need to be connected to a computer to deliver a result.

George Whitesides, a professor at Harvard University in the United States, said that the devices were portable, simple, and robust enough for community healthcare workers to use in remote regions.

Jean Bosco Kayiranga, a medical doctor in Rwanda, said that countries would need to train a large number of healthcare practitioners in using the technology.

David Bell, head of the malaria diagnostics programme at the Foundation for Innovation Diagnostics, said that the new test worked by aspirating blood and reagents through a tube with air bubbles.

He said that the test may be appropriate for a district or a hospital, which would be a big step forward.

Although the test can also diagnose syphilis with a high degree of accuracy, the test will probably be most useful in diagnosing HIV/AIDS in less-developed regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

The way the mChip works is similar to an ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay), which can evaluate either the presence of an antigen or the presence of an antibody in a blood sample.


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