A research project in Europe is underway to let people take the STD exams with full privacy and in the confines of their own comfort. The Electronic Self-Testing Instruments for Sexually Transmitted Infections or “eSTI2” company is working on a mobile phone that can diagnose Sexually transmitted Disease.
Tariq Sadiq and his team at St George’s University of London, England is heading the initiative to develop the world’s first STD diagnosing mobile phone. The phone will be supported by a chip that, technically, analyzes the saliva, urine, or blood sample. Sadiq’s team has just received a $6.5 million grant for this project.
Sadiq told reporters that his technology will make possible checking a person’s STD status via a smartphone in just 5 to 15 minutes. “It’s brining the diagnostics to the population rather than having the population come into clinics,” he stressed. “We’ve really wanted to do this process because there’s been this huge burden of sexually transmitted infections,” he said.
Sexually transmitted disease, such as syphillis, gonnorhea , herpes, and HIV are on the rise, Sadiq said, but social and personal barriers– such as stigma associated with testing and the inconvenience of waiting for an appointment at a clinic — usually prevents many people from getting an exam. The eSTI2 project hopes to break down these barriers.
“We’re kind of halfway there to be honest, and that’s why we’ve got funding — to complete that,” Sadiq, referring to his prototype chips that are about the size of a flash memory card, said. Sadiq hopes to bring down the cost from $15 to $3 before it goes to the market.
The chips won’t be available for another 7 or 10 years, sadiq explained as they still need to go through further tech and clinical trials and improvement. The chip is were the actual testing takes place and requires most of the tech development.The eSTI2 is making sure that all aspects of this technology is working before shipping it.
“Doctors, social scientists and technologists need to understand the pros and cons of on-the-spot STD testing before introducing these products to the public. Because of that, the group is inching the project forward rather than racing to commercialization,” Sadiq told CNN during an interview. “Other on-the-go STD tests — like a saliva test for HIV — have not been as accurate as companies have claimed,” he said. The tests must be accurate, easy to use and secure before they’re useful,” he added.
Sadiq announced that the chips will be made readily available in public locations like vending machines. The chip is basically the brain and the mobile phone is the processor. Sadiq further explained that these disposable chips — used once and then thrown away– are inserted into the mobile phone through a standard cable. Everything is still under works.
The concept of on-the-go medical testing has been around for a while already. George Whitesides of Harvard University launched a “lab on chip” prototype earlier. His technology aims to diagnose HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and gastroenteritis in the developing world. He used a paper-made-chip that changes color accordingly to the results.