A blood testing device has been developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur that could allow for extremely low cost blood tests using just a simple device connected to a smartphone.
The key benefit of the device is the fact that the device can perform a blood test for just one rupee under laboratory conditions, making the device extremely cost-effective and a boon for healthcare facilities with limited resources and equipment. While the researchers do believe that costs may vary slightly in field tests using the finalised commercial product, the variation is expected to be marginal.
The research team was led by Professor Suman Chakraborty with the aim of creating a device that is both simple and cheap to use. The device needs only a paper strip-based kit integrated with a smartphone. This enables both analytics and readout functions along with an LED light for imaging.
Blood glucose levels, haemoglobin count and a number of other pathological tests are all capable of being performed using the device. All that is required is a drop of blood and a drop of the reagent used to catalyse a reaction.
Rural healthcare seems to be the focus of the device, with testing reflecting the environments that are likely to be faced in these areas. “We have tested it at extreme challenging environment with uncontrolled dirt, dust and humidity, and in the absence of structured clinics or air-conditioned pathological laboratories to work,” said Dr Satadal Saha, visiting professor at the School of Medical Science and Technology of IIT Kharagpur.
Indian research and startups have created many similar devices intended for rural use, addressing a plethora of conditions. Many are created as apps or devices intended to be connected to smartphones. Some, such as Wellthy, an app created to assist in the management of diabetes, could become commonly used across both urban and rural locations, as all that is needed to operate the app is an internet connection.
Indian startups and the research they perform have a unique advantage in that they are far more closely linked to the specific issues facing Indian healthcare when compared to the more broad solutions often developed by international organisations. As such, a greater degree of understanding of issues such as the rural-urban divide in terms of healthcare access could allow their creations to be of more benefit to Indians than research coming from abroad.
India has demonstrated its capacity for innovation many times over. Although these devices are unlikely to solve the issue of poor healthcare in rural environments, they can begin to plug the gaps.