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UCLA researchers combat global disease with a cell phone, Google Maps and a lot of ingenuity
Date:4/27/2012

In the fight against emerging public health threats, early diagnosis of infectious diseases is crucial. And in poor and remote areas of the globe where conventional medical tools like microscopes and cytometers are unavailable, rapid diagnostic tests, or RDTs, are helping to make disease screening quicker and simpler.

RDTs are generally small strips on which blood or fluid samples are placed. Specific changes in the color of the strip, which usually occur within minutes, indicate the presence of infection. Different tests can be used to detect various diseases, including HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and syphilis.

While the advantages of RDTs are significant better disease-management, more efficient surveillance of outbreaks in high-risk areas and the ability of minimally trained technicians to test large number of individuals they can also present problems.

"Conventional RDTs are currently read manually, by eye, which is prone to error, especially if various different types of tests are being used by the health care worker," said Aydogan Ozcan, a UCLA professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering.

To address such challenges, Ozcan and his colleagues from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA have developed a compact and cost-effective RDT-reading device that works in tandem with standard cell phones.

"What we have created is a digital 'universal' reader for all RDTs, without any manual decision-making," he said.

The RDT-reader attachment, which clips onto a cell phone, weighs approximately 65 grams and includes an inexpensive lens, three LED arrays and two AAA batteries. The platform has the ability to read nearly every type of RDT. An RDT strip is inserted into the attachment, and with the help of cell phone's existing camera unit and a special smart-phone application, the strip is converted into a digital image.
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Contact: Jennifer Marcus
jmarcus@cnsi.ucla.edu
310-267-4839
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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