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Cambridge tech to help reach United Nations health aims in Africa

By Ben Comber

DRW founder Helen Lee
DRW founder Helen Lee

Portable HIV testing kit will help diagnose 100,000 people in rural Zimbabwe each year

A spinout company from University of Cambridge is supplying 100 machines developed specifically to provide point-of-care (POC) testing in resource-limited and remote areas.

The Zimbabwean Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr P.D. Parirenyatwa today announced the roll-out of SAMBA (Simple AMplification Based Assay) HIV testing for therapy monitoring and early infant diagnosis on Monday.

The testing platform has been developed by Diagnostics for the Real World (DRW).

Through the SAMBA platform, DRW has simplified an extremely complex chemistry composed of some 180 chemical ingredients into four robust and heat-stable cartridges that can be easily slotted into a SAMBA machine. A tablet device then controls the machine via Bluetooth and prompts the user with six simple steps required to run the test. The results are printed automatically by a small portable printer onto thermostable paper and can be electronically transmitted to the Department of Health.

Dr Parirenyatwa said: “The point-of-care SAMBA HIV tests will be procured through the Global Fund support to implement a minimum of 25 sites with a total of 100 machines to be installed across Zimbabwe, reaching at least 100,000 people annually, countrywide. This will complement the already existing viral load capacity tests. For the first time, patients in rural areas can be tested for HIV viral load at the point-of-care and know their status within two hours”.

The machines will help achieve the 90/90/90 goals set out by UNAIDS, for 90% of HIV infected individuals to be correctly diagnosed by 2020, with 90% of them receiving treatment and with 90% of treated individuals no longer having the virus circulating in their blood stream.

Dr Parirenyatwa said: “The Zimbabwean Ministry of Health and Child Care has made a concerted effort to achieve the 90/90/90 goal as set out by UNAIDS. We will increase HIV viral load coverage from the current 5% to 50% by the end of 2017, with the aim of reaching 90% by 2019. In order to achieve these ambitious targets, 60% of HIV viral load testing will need to be carried out at point-of-care. Consequently, the successful implementation of SAMBA in Zimbabwe will play an important role considering the reduced costs of SAMBA machines.”


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