Low-Cost HIV Diagnostic Tool for Remote Areas Requires No Electricity

Diagnosing HIV and other infectious diseases presents unique challenges in remote locations that lack electric power, refrigeration, and appropriately trained health care staff. To address these issues, researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have developed a low-cost, electricity-free device capable of detecting the DNA of infectious pathogens, including HIV-1. The work was performed by a team at the Seattle-based international non-profit PATH, led by Paul LaBarre, senior technical officer. The device uses a small scale chemical reaction, rather than electric power, to provide the heat needed to amplify and detect the DNA or RNA of pathogens present in blood samples obtained from potentially infected individuals. The core technology the researchers developed and continue to improve is a system known as NINA, for non-instrumental nucleic acid amplification. A critical feature of the nucleic acid test is the ability to detect infection at very early stages.