Though ELISA tests are the gold
standard for diagnosing a whole slew of infectious diseases, the technology has
remained stuck within hospital labs.
The journal Science Translational Medicine reports that
the appliance, called a dongle, pulls its power from the smartphone and works
with a fingerprick of blood, much like a home diabetes blood glucose test.
Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical
engineering at Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Science Columbia
University in New York and colleagues tested the device on 96 volunteers.
Such a combination immunoassay has not previously been
available in a unified test. It has already been trialed in field tests in
Rwanda on 96 people enrolled in disease transmission prevention programs and
volunteers in counseling and testing centers.
"It wasn't perfect, but worked almost as well as an
expensive lab test to show who had active syphilis infections and who was
infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS," they said.
The device will cost roughly $34 to manufacture, orders
of magnitude cheaper than conventional ELISA machines while providing similar
accuracy of results.
The developers added, "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