Detecting HIV is expensive and for people living in areas where it is prevalent, it is almost inaccessible. In parts of the world where the nearest clinic is hours away by road, detection of HIV is almost impossible. The scientists of the University of Illinois and Daktari Diagnostics have created a portable and cheap solution to the problem.
The solution is a business-card sized biochip which is capable of scanning for HIV and also giving an accurate T-cell count. The thin microfluidics lab-on-a-chip can handle small amounts of fluid such as a drop of blood. When the blood drop hits the chip, white blood cells are caught in a protein-filled chamber that contains sensors which count T-cells. The T-cell count is what doctors examine when someone is HIV positive, with people who are HIV positive having a lower T-cell count in general than regular healthy people. The chip is placed in a small battery-powered device which reads the results, making the testing apparatus portable and easily available in areas where there are currently no clinics that test for HIV.
The cost of making the mobile device reader is $1000 and the resulting cost of the test itself is $10. This makes the lab-on-a-chip cheaper than other HIV testing alternatives. The biochip has a lot of potential and scientists are looking into ways of expanding its functionality. The research team is already planning on ways to commercialize this technology and hope to perform field tests soon. Of course, the best form of news would be a cure to HIV, but until then this, technology still has the capability to save lives. Watch a video explaining how the chip works to identify infectious diseases.