BOCA RATON, Fla. - It's about as simple as a pregnancy test, but it can find viruses and bacteria in your blood. Soon you could be using a cellphone camera to track and diagnose medical issues from home.
Research at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton is making it all possible.
Dr. Waseem Asghar has always wanted to help people. "That was one big motive, my mother had diabetes and she had a big problem managing it," he explains.
Now, the FAU professor wants to give patients control of their diseases.
He and other partners have come up with a way for you to diagnose and monitor HIV and other viruses at home.
They've developed a sheet of plastic about one half inch by one inch with a microchip inside. You place a drop of blood on it, then put it in a device Asghar is creating.
"You'll be able to see your results and also you have the option to send them to your doctor's office right away," he explains.
The idea is to eventually have the entire lab at your fingertips, saving you a trip to the doctor, and getting results immediately.
"We are just giving that control to the patients," Asghar says.
He points out the new method will save you time and money. Each plastic strip costs less than $1 and the device to test it should cost about $50.
But he says it shouldn't replace your doctor. You should still consult with a physician and follow their recommendations.
His team of students is also working on a way to test blood for bacteria which causes E. Coli and staph infections by using the camera on your cellphone.
An app will be able to find oddities in pictures of blood you put on a different micro-chipped sheet Asghar has developed.
"If there is a color change at one spot, we know this person has this pathogen, or that pathogen and this pathogen is absent, so, in that way, you can cover a whole range of pathogens," he explains.
He envisions urgent care clinics using the these methods because they are cheaper and faster than employing a lab and buying expensive testing equipment.
He says it could make a big difference in developing countries where access to doctors is limited. A patient could perform this test themselves and share the results with a doctor hundreds of miles away.
Asghar hopes to start testing the technology in clinical studies with patients soon. You could see an FDA-approved product on pharmacy shelves in three to four years.