Smartphone Accessory Tests for STDs

'Dongle' uses power from smartphone to test for syphilis and HIV and provides fast results

Detecting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) just got easier, especially for patients in less developed areas of the world.

Researchers have developed a smartphone accessory that can detect syphilis and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) with the prick of a finger. The accessory replicates lab-quality equipment that is significantly more cumbersome.

The device has already been tested in Rwanda and tests for STDs within 15 minutes, reports Fox News. Traditional STD testing can take days to show results.

"In the U.S. actually, there's a trend towards providing a lot of health care services away from hospitals — it's infrastructure-heavy and expensive, and you really shouldn't have to be there," said Samuel K. Sia, PhD, lead author of a study of the new device and a biomedical engineering professor at Columbia University in New York City, in an interview with Fox News.

The device (called a “dongle,” or device that is used in conjunction with a computer or other device) uses the smartphone as its power source — an added benefit in less developed countries where the power grid can be unstable.

The dongle currently only tests for HIV and syphilis — two common and serious STDs in less developed countries — but Dr. Sia and team said they plan to expand its repertoire.

The study of the new device published Feb. 4 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.