Traditional STD tests usually take several days before the patient can know the results. The new device can identify if someone is infected with HIV or syphilis in approximately 15 minutes.
The scientists who developed the new smartphone accessory said that their invention could help determine if patients have STDs in countries where sexual transmitted diseases are a serious problem.
Samuel K. Sia, professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University and one of the scientists involved in the new study, explained that detecting the diseases is about “being proactive and preventative”, adding that the new smartphone accessory will help save money, is more private and convenient for all the patients.
The smartphone device works by copying the diagnostic methods used in laboratories to detect HIV antibodies and two of the markers used to detect syphilis.
In order to be able to diagnose correctly if the patient is infected with syphilis, the smartphone accessory runs special tests for the treponemal antibody and the non treponemal one.
This special accessory uses the smartphone’s power to perform a test called ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), which is a traditional test for the detection of STDs.
The scientists said that this method of STD detection could be very helpful in countries like Rwanda where access to electricity is often a problem.
The team worked in collaboration with the Rwanda Biomedical Center, the Institute of HIV Disease and Prevention and Control and the local Ministry of Health to test the new device on 96 pregnant Rwandan women.
According to professor Sia, the smartphone accessory can only detect STDs like HIV and syphilis because these two infections are transmittable from mother to child during pregnancy.
Recent reports show that approximately 1.5 million pregnant women around the world get infected with syphilis. The reports also reveal that half of these women do not get treated for the disease, which leads to the loss of the child or to still births.
The details of the new smartphone accessory that can detect sexual transmitted diseases were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.
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