Treating malaria, HIV, and other diseases in remote and economically depressed areas is a monumental challenge, but accessible testing methods must be in place before treatment can even begin. With half a million deaths per year from malaria alone, there is a desperate need to find an affordable, intuitive, and portable diagnosis solution. To address this, QuantuMDx is developing a handheld laboratory called the Q-POC that will analyze and diagnose diseases and drug resistance in resource limited areas.
The device requires no clean water or stable electricity to run, and provides results in fifteen minutes. Current tests can take several weeks, particularly in remote areas, and devises can cost upwards of $10,000. The Q-POC dramatically reduces the time required and the device is expected to cost around $750. Each test will then cost only $10-20, with hopes of further reductions as the project develops. Results can be stored and shared through a mobile data connection, which can then connect to a network to track the spread of diseases in real time.
To Boldly Go…
Operators of the device insert one of several cartridges specific to a disease. Each cartridge is pre-loaded with reagents and probes needed for each ailment. The cartridge system allows a single device to test for a wide range of diseases, with improvements planned for future models. In some cases, a single cartridge will test for multiple issues, and will also provide drug susceptibility information, which is crucial to fighting drug resistance and properly prescribing treatment. Currently the company is focusing on malaria, which requires only a small drop of blood to test for and can be treated properly if caught early.
Though it’s not quite the tricorder from Star Trek (though others are aiming for that), plans for future models are impressive. The company says the device will eventually be able to diagnose early infant HIV, swine flu, hospital acquired infections (HAI), and a host of tropical diseases.
The device has not yet gone through extensive trials, so potential limitations are difficult to guess. Aside from the price of each test, which may still be restrictive in many situations, how the device is powered raises some concerns. The company has not yet fully explained their plans, but the device is expected to run on batteries. This will reduce run-time and add to the total cost of tests. Hopefully a solar or crank system can be implemented to future models to make the device truly off the grid.
The project is currently in the development and testing phase with plans for an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for further trials and development. No date has yet been announced for commercial release, but we’ll be watching the project closely as it develops.