Prototypes of a portable test for Zika virus and a range of other diseases, using just a microchip plugged into a smartphone, may be available by the end of 2016.
Zika – a rapidly-spreading, mosquito-borne disease – doesn’t always show symptoms and currently has no treatment or vaccine.
The new test could be performed from the comfort of the patient’s own home according to Professor Kirill Alexandrov from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at The University of Queensland.
Just one drop of blood or saliva onto the microchip is needed, and the rapidly displayed results would be sent to the patient’s GP.
The technology can test for disease in blood, saliva, sweat, tears and urine. It was originally developed for diagnosing breast and prostate cancers, for personalised management of psychological stress, and to test the efficacy of drugs such as immunosuppressants in individual patients.
“We developed protein-based switches that can recognise the disease biomarker, which is something that current technologies struggle to do outside the lab,” Kirill says.
“The switch then responds by producing an electric current that can be detected by the smartphone.”
The technology was developed by Kirill’s research group at IMB and the Australian-UK start-up company Molecular Warehouse Ltd.
Banner image credit: Siro Perez, Molecular Warehouse Ltd.