A Smartphone HIV & Syphilis Diagnosis Kit In Rwanda - A Cheap Cleanleap!

Smartphone dongles used to perform HIV & Syphilis diagnosis

Recently in February a team of researchers, led by Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University, has introduced a new cheap mobile microfluidic chip or mChip that can complete an immediate diagnosis of three simultaneous infectious diseases in only 15 minutes! From a single finger prick, the dongle can perform a tri-plexed immunoassay not currently existing in a single test format, the diagnosis includes: HIV antibodies, treponemal-specific antibodies for syphilis, and nontreponemal antibodiesfor an active syphilis infection.

The mobile microfluidic chip has all the mechanical, optical, and electronic features of a lab-based blood test. In particular, it can execute an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), using the smartphone’s power. The pilot testing research was conducted in partnership with Rwandan health care in Rwandan hospitals.

The tests were practiced on 96 patients enrolled in the prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) using finger prick, according the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) the establishment of 488 health care centers out of 494 sites by the MOH (Ministry Of Health), has significantly increased the number of pregnant mother-tested for HIV and reduced the transmission from mother-to-child. However, there are still a large number of people in Rwanda who do not have access to HIV diagnosis services due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure.

“For a country to fare well in global research, it should have proper infrastructure, qualified medical personnel and an open mind for collaboration with other global partners. These findings are proof that Rwanda meets all the criteria,” said Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana the RBC (Rwanda Bio-Medical Center) Head of HIV, STI, and other blood-borne infections division.

A user pressing the bulb of the smartphone dongle to initiate blood fluid flow

It is undisputable that Sia’s team has accomplished a low-cost dongle and people are excited to explore this cleanleap when it will be launched on the market, Sia confirmed that the manufacturing cost will be $34 whereas the lab-based materials cost $18,450, the mChip is a pure cleanleap that will be very helpful specifically in developing countries, and it will allow them to reach a large number of the population that can’t access HIV, Syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases diagnosis services, with low energy requirements and can be easily carried by hand. Thus, the number of deaths caused by untreated sexually transmitted diseases should significantly decrease because the diagnosis will be done much earlier than current practices.

Rwanda pursues its initiatives to establish partnerships with developed countries to conduct research, especially related to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Sia accomplished this mobile microfluidic chip with support of researchers from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health; the Institute of HIV Disease Prevention and Control, Columbia University Medical Center; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Laboratory Reference and Research Branch, Atlanta; OPKO Diagnostics; and Rwanda Biomedical Center; Department of Pathology and Cell Biology.