Making HIV tests visible to the naked eye

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2013-04-22

One of the recurring themes in healthcare is that a lot of what works in the developed world doesn't work in the developing world. There may be limited access to basics like power or communications facilities, never mind the medical technologies that make a hospital one of the modern wonders of the world. Beyond simple access to expensive technologies and medicines, even something as basic as a diagnostic test might be too expensive or require skilled technicians to use.

Though cures might remain expensive—drug companies like their profits—every dime saved on diagnosis is a dime more for prevention and cure. That makes cheap, accurate, and simple diagnostic tests very, very desirable.

I was thinking about this when I came across an older paper that somehow didn't attract any attention when it came out. Last year, a group of researchers showed that they could detect HIV at extremely low concentrations. That by itself is nothing special: people are always improving diagnostic tests. What is special is that the test is very much like a pregnancy test, in that a simple visible color change indicates a positive result. Even better, it seems to work in real-life tests.

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