In astonishing new research, scientists have developed a smart phone app that can effectively detect various diseases and bacteria, potentially changing the field of medicine.

Using a drop of blood from a fingerprick, this novel biosensing platform provides clinically relevant specificity, sensitivity and detection of pathogens from whole blood and plasma - including HIV, E-coli, Staphylococcus aureas and other bacteria. The thin, lightweight and flexible materials developed by researchers from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and collaborators can lead the way in solving real-world healthcare problems for both developed and developing countries.

"There is a dire need for robust, portable, disposable and inexpensive biosensing platforms for clinical care, especially in developing countries with limited resources," Waseem Asghar, assistant professor of electrical engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at FAU, co-first author on the study, said in a statement.

"The future of diagnostics and health monitoring will have potentially cell-phone based or portable readers sipping saliva or blood and continuously monitoring human health taking it way beyond where we are with counting steps today," added Utkan Demirci, a corresponding author.

Simply by using cell phone images from anywhere in the world, scientists can analyze the images and detect bacteria and disease in the blood.

Until now, current paper and flexible material-based platforms have limited scientists in terms of the types of diseases and bacteria they can accurately detect. But this time around, the FAU team integrated cellulose paper and flexible polyester films - as well as electrical and optical sensing modalities - as new diagnostic tools to detect bioagents in whole blood, serum and peritoneal fluid. This technique can effectively be applied to a variety of settings including medical diagnostic and biology laboratories.

Not to mention that it's a much faster, cheaper way to diagnose diseases and monitor treatment in point-of-care settings.

The researchers also point out that because their materials are easy to make, easy to use, and can easily and safely be disposed by burning, they provide appealing strategies for developing affordable tools that have broad applications such as drug development, food safety, environmental monitoring, veterinary medicine and diagnosing infectious diseases in developing countries.

"Our paper microchip technologies can potentially have a significant impact on infectious diseases management in low- and middle-income countries where there is limited laboratory infrastructure," concluded fellow researcher Hadi Shafiee.

The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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