One of the greatest barriers to eradicating HIV and AIDS, especially in the developing world, has been effective testing. Many who transmit the deadly disease simply don’t know they have it.
The Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) aims to change that. The USAID Bureau for Global Health’s flagship program for maternal, neonatal and child health has released a small chip that uses optics to read fluids. It takes a single drop of blood and returns a positive or negative result for HIV/AIDS or syphilis, in about 15 minutes. And the results are presented, similar to a pregnancy test, so that anyone can understand what’s going on.
Published last week in Nature, the researchers academically state, “Overall, we demonstrate an integrated strategy for miniaturizing complex laboratory assays using microfluidics and nanoparticles to enable POC diagnostics and early detection of infectious diseases in remote settings.”
In other words: This sucker puts a testing facility in aid workers’ pockets, no matter how far of the beaten path they have to travel. Typically one would expect a device this small to cost a fortune, but each totals to about a dollar. Cost has been one of the greatest barriers to aid and testing in the developing world. Drugs to put HIV in remission have been available, but they have simply cost too much for mass distribution. The low cost chip will hopefully begin to obviate the need for those drugs in the first place.
Almost more importantly, not only is the device small, but dependable. Researchers at Columbia University have vouched for a 100 percent detection rate. The false positive (the test saying you have the disease when you don’t) is also in line with standard lab tests of 4-6 percent of tests.