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Sci-Tech

USB stick HIV test promises results in 30 minutes

Scientists have developed a test that could improve monitoring and treatment of the virus in remote areas.

This device could change HIV testing.

Imperial College London

Researchers from Imperial College London and DNA Electronics have developed an HIV test on a USB stick that could make it easier for patients to monitor their health.

Dr. Graham Cooke, the project's lead, said Thursday in a statement that the traditional HIV test equipment that checks for "viral load" -- a monitoring test important for treatment -- is expensive and unwieldy. It can take days to process the results. By reducing the size of the device, it becomes much easier to transport, which could dramatically improve access to testing in remote regions. The team also claims the technology can produce a result in 30 minutes or less.

Here's how it works: You place a blood sample onto a spot on the USB stick. If the virus is detected, the acidity levels change, which the built-in mobile chip turns into an electrical signal. The USB stick receives this information and can transmit it to a computer, laptop or other device.

The idea is that patients would be able to monitor their viral levels similar to how a diabetic checks blood sugar. The technology is still in development, but you can read more about the study here.