Mobile phones might soon be equipped with a chip and an app that can test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). That's the plan anyway. Researchers at St George's University of London believe their proposed mobile testing platform could make STI testing more mainstream and more private.
If STI kits were sold with condoms at supermarkets and out of vending machines at night clubs, testing could be done at the home much like pregnancy tests are done today. The chip would test urine or saliva.
Basically, people at risk would pee on a computer chip and then would plug it into their mobile phone or computer to get a quick diagnosis though a smart phone app. The mobile recommendations wouldn't stop there. The software could set up a doctor's appointment, let the pharmacy know to have a prescription ready, and even alert the sexual partner of the news.
The UK Clinical Research Collaboration and the Medical Research Council are funding the eSTI2 project. Sexual health experts hope this private way of testing for STIs will help lessen the rising STI cases in Britain.
St George's Tariq Sadiq, one of the researchers involved in the eSTI2 project, said in a statement: “Mobile phones have changed the way we live and communicate, and our team of experts firmly believe that they open up a unique avenue for new ways to diagnose and control STIs."
"This kind of system could also speed up the process of communicating infection trends in the population to public health doctors, allowing for quicker responses to outbreaks of an STI," Sadiq said.
The researchers need to make sure privacy and data are protected before an STI app literally goes viral with smart phone users. Plus, you wouldn't want this program to be hacked - it could be a buzz kill or even ruin marriages if the alerts were falsified.
The British scientists are certainly not the first think of this lab-on-a-chip approach. For instance, Harvard researcher George Whitesides developed a paper chip to diagnose diseases like HIV and malaria.