Mobile phones and computers will soon be able to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases under innovative plans to cut the UK’s rising rate of herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea among young people.
People who suspect been infected will be able to put urine or saliva on to a computer chip about the size of a USB chip, plug it into their phone or computer and receive a diagnosis within minutes, telling them which, if any, sexually transmitted infection (STI) they’ve. Seven funders, including the Medical Research Council, have put £4m into developing the technology via a forum called the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.
Sexual health experts hope it’ll help reduce the growing number of STIs, which’ve increased for the last decade and reached a record 482,696 last year. Two-thirds of women reporting a new STI were under 25, as were more than half of men.
The developers of the rapid testing devices expect them to be sold for as little as 50p or £1 each in vending machines in nightclubs, pharmacies and in supermarkets, as condoms are. They’re drawing on nanotechnology and microfluidics, the creation of miniaturised laboratories.