New “lab in a chip” quickly tests for multiple diseases

Guatemalan children participate in a radio broadcast to learn about HIV and AIDS. Photo: Lindsey Wahlstrom

One of the challenges in diagnosing illnesses in the developing world is that many people live several hours’ journey from a clinic, and then they have to wait multiple days for blood test results to come back. A new invention called the mChip could make dramatic advances in medical diagnoses.

The mChip is about the size of a credit card, and can diagnose multiple diseases with only a small drop of blood. The test results show in approximately half an hour, and the device itself costs about $1. In the testing phase for HIV and syphilis diagnoses in Rwanda, the device showed an incredibly high accuracy rate with very few false positives, making it more reliable than current 30-minute HIV tests.

Samuel Sia, one of the study’s authors and a biomedical engineer at Columbia University, told the Washington Post, “We’ve taken what’s long been a great theoretical concept and shown that it can be done in the field.”

For more information about the study, read the BBC or Washington Post coverage, or read the full report on Nature Medicine’s website (subscription required).