This Smartphone Attachment Tests for HIV and Syphilis

Users can get results back in 15 minutes.
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Users can get results back in 15 minutes.

Every day it seems as if our smartphones are capable of doing more and more. While many use their iPhones or Droids primarily for texting and social media, a revolutionary attachment can now test for STDs.

The small dongle conducts antibody tests known as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to test for an HIV antibody and two syphilis antibodies. Developed by a team of biomedical engineers at Columbia University, they’ve created an inexpensive, highly accurate device that can make testing for these diseases a much simpler process.

The attachment — that’s roughly the size of the phone itself — gets power directly from the phone via the audio jack. And since it’s using a universal headphone plug, it’s compatible with just about any smartphone or computer.

All users have to do is prick their finger, insert blood into a microfluidic cassette and wait for 15 minutes for the rapid-test results.

“This kind of capability can transform how health care services are delivered around the world," said head researcher Samuel K. Sia in Columbia University release.

It’s already shown promise in Rwanda, where 96 volunteers were part of a recent pilot testing. Of those patients, 97 percent recommended the device for its simplicity and quick turnaround time.

They’re currently working to bring the device into more developing countries where HIV and syphilis rates are much higher than in the U.S. Easy diagnosis will allow those with a positive status to seek treatment and can help stem spreading the diseases further.

Sia and his team are quite enthusiastic about accessory’s possible impact.

“By increasing detection of syphilis infections, we might be able to reduce deaths by 10-fold. And for large-scale screening where the dongle's high sensitivity with few false negatives is critical, we might be able to scale up HIV testing at the community level with immediate antiretroviral therapy that could nearly stop HIV transmissions and approach elimination of this devastating disease,” Sia said in the Columbia University release.

And did we mention it only costs $34 compared to an ELISA machines that runs upwards of $20,000?

Learn more about the smartphone attachment in the video below:

Top photo courtesy of Samiksha Nayak for Columbia Engineering