Imperial College London / DNA Electronics
Imperial College London / DNA Electronics

Engineers Create Disposable USB HIV Test

Imperial College London / DNA Electronics
Imperial College London / DNA Electronics

Researchers have created a disposable HIV test that requires a single drop of blood. The inexpensive, portable test could be used in remote areas where medical facilities are scarce and will allow people to monitor their condition at home. The team described their progress in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

Scientific understanding of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has advanced tremendously since the disease was identified in 1981. There’s still no cure, but a diagnosis of HIV is no longer a death sentence, and the progression to AIDS is no longer inevitable.

The treatment for HIV is a combination of drugs, known collectively as antiretroviral therapy (ART). The drugs keep the virus from multiplying, which keeps it from progressing. It’s important for people on ART to keep an eye on their viral load, or the amount of the virus in their bodies, in order to be sure their treatment is working. But in many parts of the world—including sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV and AIDS are most prevalent—blood tests and doctors can be hard to find. So a cheap, easy-to-use, at-home test could mean the difference between life and death for millions of people.

Researchers at Imperial College London and a company called DNA Electronics decided to create the smallest, most portable version of the test they could. The resulting technology fits onto a computer chip and ingeniously combines chemistry and electronics. Users prick their fingers and deposit a single drop of blood on the chip. If the viral load in the blood meets a certain threshold, the blood will cause a change in the chip’s acidity, which the chip then transforms into an electrical signal. The USB drive containing the stick can then be plugged into a computer and its results read.

The chip’s designers tried out their device on 991 blood samples taken from people with HIV. The results were very encouraging: the chip detected the virus with 88.8 percent accuracy. This is slightly behind the traditional test setup, which yielded a 95 percent accuracy rate, but for a test on a flash drive, the new technology fared surprisingly well.

The researchers will continue to develop their test, and are interested in learning if it could also be used for other diseases like hepatitis. 

Recall Alert: Swiss Rolls And Bread Sold at Walmart and Food Lion Linked to Salmonella
Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons // CC 1.0

New items have been added to the list of foods being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. According to Fox Carolina, snack cakes and bread products produced by Flowers Foods, Inc. have been pulled from stores in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The baked goods company, based in Georgia, has reason to believe the whey powder it buys from a third-party supplier is tainted with salmonella. The ingredient is added to its Swiss rolls, which are sold under various brands, as well as its Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread. Popular chains that normally sell Flowers Foods products include Walmart and Food Lion.

The U.S. is in the middle of a salmonella outbreak. In June, Kellogg's recalled Honey Smacks due to contamination and the CDC is still urging consumers to avoid the brand. The cereal has sickened dozens of people since early March. So far, there have been no reported illnesses connected to the potential Flower Foods contamination.

You can find the full list of recalled items below. If you have one of these products in your kitchen, throw it out immediately or return it to the store where you bought it to be reimbursed.

  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • H-E-B Swiss Rolls
  • Food Lion Swiss Rolls
  • Baker's Treat Swiss Rolls
  • Market Square Swiss Rolls
  • Great Value Swiss Rolls
  • Captain John Derst's Old Fashioned Bread

[h/t Fox Carolina]

97 Percent of Us Are Washing Our Hands All Wrong

Most of us know the importance of washing our hands, but we're still pretty clueless when it comes to washing them the right way. As CNN reports, we fall short of washing our hands effectively 97 percent of the time.

That number comes from a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that looked at 383 participants in a test-kitchen environment. When they were told to wash their hands, the vast majority of subjects walked away from the sink after less than 20 seconds—the minimum hand-washing time recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of them also failed to dry their hands with a clean towel.

The researchers had participants cooking and handling raw meats. Because they didn't wash their hands properly, volunteers were spreading potentially dangerous germs to spice jars 48 percent of the time, contaminating refrigerator handles 11 percent of the time, and doing the same to salads 5 percent of the time.

People who don't wash their hands the correct way risk spreading harmful microbes to everything they touch, making themselves and those they live with more susceptible to certain infections like gastrointestinal illness and respiratory infections. Luckily, the proper hand-washing protocol isn't that complicated: The biggest change most of us need to make is investing more time.

According to the CDC, you need to rub your hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds to get rid of harmful bacteria. A helpful trick is to sing "Happy Birthday" twice as you wash—once you're finished, you should have passed the 20-second mark. And if your bathroom or kitchen doesn't have a clean towel to dry your hands with, let them air-dry. 

[h/t CNN]


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