First smartphone DNA test for chlamydia developed

By: Gizbot Bureau

Researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind smartphone test for chlamydia that can detect the sexually transmitted disease (STD) with high accuracy and is easier and cheaper than current diagnostic methods.

First smartphone DNA test for chlamydia developed

Credit: Image courtesy of AACC

Most people with chlamydia are not aware of it because the infection often causes no symptoms, but if left untreated, this STD can develop into pelvic inflammatory disease and irreversibly damage a woman's reproductive system.

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Over the past decade, healthcare providers have been able to expand screening programmes for chlamydia thanks to the development of a highly sensitive method known as nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT).

NAATs are too complex, however, to perform in point-of-care settings such as physicians' offices, health fairs, school clinics, or other sexual health outreach venues, and they also have a high per-test cost.

First smartphone DNA test for chlamydia developed

A team of researchers led by Jeff Tza-Huei Wang, from the Johns Hopkins University BioMEMS Lab, Baltimore, Maryland has developed the first low-cost NAAT platform that can diagnose chlamydia at the point-of-care and that integrates sample preparation, DNA amplification, and data processing all in one coffee mug-sized instrument.

Known as mobiLab, this battery-powered device works by using a microfluidics cartridge to detect the DNA of chlamydia bacteria in genital swab samples. The DNA analysis unit is integrated with a smartphone, which enables the user to control the platform and process test data with an app.

The test's accuracy was validated by comparing its performance with the Gen-Probe Aptima Combo 2 assay, the gold standard test for chlamydia. After analysing 20 patient samples using both tests, the researchers found that mobiLab and the Gen-Probe test both identified the same 10 positive and 10 negative cases.

This demonstrates that mobiLab can be used in place of standard NAATs, researchers said. Additionally, each microfluidics cartridge it uses costs less than USD 2, an order of magnitude cheaper than similar commercial cartridges, which can cost close to USD 10 per test.

Altogether, this will make it possible for a greater number of non-traditional healthcare settings to afford and offer chlamydia testing and to screen a wider portion of at-risk women and men with high precision, researchers said.

The research was presented at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Atlanta.

Source: PTI

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