Wall Street Daily

Smartphone Diagnoses Disease in 15 Minutes

Your smartphone just got even smarter.

Using them for calls, texts, emails, web surfing, and other things… that’s so last week.

How about using it to diagnose serious diseases like HIV and syphilis?

Well, that’s now possible in two simple steps.

First, plug in a dongle to the smartphone. This “phone lab” acts like a mobile blood test.

When paired with an app, it can detect diseases from a simple finger prick in just 15 minutes.

Needless to say, such technology is critical in many remote or poverty-stricken areas of the world that don’t have access to medical facilities.

And far from being a stop-gap measure, research in Rwanda has shown that the technology is similarly accurate as regular lab tests. As such, it could be vital in saving lives in these isolated regions.

Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University, Sam Sia, articulates it, “A lot of these patients simply cannot travel the distances to testing clinics to get their blood drawn and get results, which means they’re not treated for these conditions. And if pregnant women aren’t treated for HIV or syphilis, they’ll pass these diseases on to their newborns.”

So how does it work? Simple…

Drop and Diagnose

A drop of blood is placed onto a cassette, which is then inserted into the smartphone dongle.

When plugged into the smartphone, the app gets to work in analyzing the sample.

Take a look…

And the device doesn’t just test for HIV and syphilis. Sia says, “We can certainly look at other STDs such as hepatitis, herpes, as well as other infectious diseases, including malaria, and chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes.”

Even better… not only is the innovation a lifesaving one, it’s also incredibly cheap. Despite taking 10 years to develop, it costs just $34. That’s a fraction of the cost for conventional diagnostic equipment – and a critical benefit for poverty-hit areas.

Next step? A large-scale clinical trial for the device, where the developers hope to win approval from the World Health Organization to put this ingenious, cost-effective innovation to use in developing nations.


Martin Denholm