Translational Apps to Analyze

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Translational Apps to Analyze

There are thousands of health-related “apps” for smartphones, from tracking sleep patterns to recording heart rate to logging caloric intake. The power of such apps in connecting resource-limited communities to health care workers and, in turn, to proper and immediate care is now emerging. In this issue, Laksanasopin and colleagues describe a microfluidic-based diagnostic test for HIV and syphilis that attaches to (and is powered by) the iPod’s headphone jack. The mobile test also comes complete with an easy-to-use app, flashing test results on-screen in under 15 min. The test is based on the standard immunoassay but uses gold-labeled antibodies to detect HIV and syphilis antigens in only 2 μl of whole blood, and then silver reagents to amplify the resulting signal. The authors deployed the dongle in Rwanda, testing its sensitivity and specificity on 96 patients. Evaluated side by side with the gold standard tests for HIV and syphilis, the dongle produced results with a sensitivity and specificity needed for making treatment decisions in the field. In a survey, a vast majority of patients reported satisfaction with dongle performance. After a few next-generation tweaks, including reducing the size of the dongle, the entire diagnostic package is ready for adoption in resource-poor clinics and communities, to improve detection of HIV and syphilis and empower health care workers to administer timely and appropriate treatments.

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