Innovation That Matters

Swift, accurate HIV test via USB stick

Work & Lifestyle

Developed by Imperial College and DNA Electronics scientists, the USB stick uses a single drop of blood to measure the level of the virus in the bloodstream.

Traditional HIV testing methods take up to three days with blood samples often needing to be sent away to a laboratory. Researchers from Imperial College London and DNA Electronics developed a USB stick that requires only a single drop of blood to run the test. Using a mobile phone chip, the USB stick checks for a change in the level of acidity present. If the change occurs, it indicates the presence of the virus and creates an electrical signal that can be read on a connected device.

In tests, the USB stick results were 95 percent accurate, and the average time it took to get results was 20 minutes. Scientists believe this type of testing could help remote communities manage infection levels, especially when speed of diagnosis is crucial, particularly for babies. The USB test could also help patients with long-term management of their condition, much like diabetics’ daily blood sugar tests.

Globalization means that infections are increasingly spread further afield, and scientists are looking for ways to make treatments more accurate and accessible. A data sharing social network and a platform dedicated to publicizing the latest in HIV results and research are increasing the opportunities for international collaboration. What other areas of scientific research could be strengthened through more real-time data sharing?



Download PDF