A team of biomedical engineers at Columbia University has developed an iPhone dongle costing just $34 that can conduct HIV tests with similar accuracy to ‘gold standard’ laboratory equipment costing over $18,000. The test, which also detects syphilis, takes just 15 minutes to run … 

The work was reported in the Science Translational Medicine journal (via GigaOM).

This low-cost dongle replicates all mechanical, optical, and electronic functions of a laboratory-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) without requiring any stored energy; all necessary power is drawn from a smartphone. [Results] rivaled the gold standard of laboratory-based HIV ELISA.

The dongle plugs into the audio jack, and is compatible with both iPhones and Android smartphones. The test requires just a single pin-prick of blood.

Training health workers to administer the test takes just half an hour. By making the test cheap and quick to run using only minimal equipment, it’s hoped to dramatically increase testing in developing countries.

Smartphones are increasingly being used for low-cost medical diagnostic tests, previous examples including a $500 iPhone dongle to detect skin cancer with the same accuracy as dermatologists, and a $90 iPhone accessory that performs the same job as ophthalmology kit costing tens of thousands of dollars.

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