Handheld device may spot tuberculosis in flat 20 minutes

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London, April 22 (IANS) A Britain-based technology company has claimed to have developed a smartphone-sized handheld DNA analyser that may diagnose infectious diseases like tuberculosis (TB) in flat 15-20 minutes.

Running on a solar-powered battery, the low-cost handheld device called “Q-Poc” may analyse biological samples submitted via a small-sized cartridge, the Guardian reported.

Swabs can be used to detect sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) while sputum is used to detect TB, its makers claimed.

“We are now at the point that we have a working prototype that can perform a highly sensitive tuberculosis test from a sample through to results in 15-20 minutes,” Jonathan O’Halloran, the company’s co-founder, was quoted as saying.

According to its developers, “Q-Poc” analyses the DNA of pathogens rather than proteins within the sample.

The device uses microfluidic technology that allows fluids to pass through various microscopic channels.

A chemical process then breaks down the sample into a molecular soup. It is then sent through a nanoscale-based filter system that isolates the DNA for analysis.

The company plans to launch the product for the use by health care providers by as early as 2018.

The device will initially be used to detect TB. It has built-in smartlphone technology, enabling the results to be shared in real time.

“It sounds simple, but it is absolutely groundbreaking,” O’Halloran added. Clinical trials of the device are planned in South Africa later this year.

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