Engineers, medical testing and medical research teams got together at Columbia University to create a portable, low-power device that administers STD tests. The researchers developed a dongle and app for the iPhone that walks a patient through getting a single drop of blood, loading it into the dongle and running an HIV test and two syphilis tests. The results are available in about 15 minutes. It’s being tested in remote locations in Africa, where villagers who come for medical treatment usually aren’t present to receive test results that take hours to become available.
During the test period, the device performed more than 40 tests before it had to be recharged, a key design feature and hurdle that had to be overcome to make the micro test lab operate with a smartphone. Superior batteries in the latest iPhone models would only increase the number of tests that can be performed with a single battery charge.
The dongle, which engineers estimate might cost around $35 to manufacture, was highly recommended by all the patients who used it based on follow-up interviews. Patients received less than 30 minutes of instruction for how to use the device.
The results were also very accurate. For those with HIV or syphilis, the HIV test and first syphilis test identified the infection in every patient. The second syphilis test was 92 percent accurate. All three tests, however, produced some false positive results, but health care officials were willing to accept an even higher margin of error for the ability to bring the test to these remote parts of Africa.