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New Device Could Make Identifying AIDS Easier



From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

People around the world recently joined together to celebrate progress in fighting the disease AIDS. December 1st marked World AIDS Day. Now, a new device aims to make identification of AIDS easier. It could also lower the cost of testing in developing countries.

The device is used to count a kind of disease-fighting white blood cell called CD4. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, attacks and destroys CD4 cells, making patients unable to fight infections. Doctors often suggest patients use antiretroviral medicines to help strengthen the body's natural defenses for fighting disease. A CD4 cell count can help doctors decide if the drug treatment is necessary or not. The count requires a blood sample and a laboratory equipped to study the cells. This can be difficult to do in some African countries, where many people have AIDS.

Rashid Bashir heads the bio-engineering department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He and his team developed the new device, which they call "lab on a chip." It is a three-centimeter-by-four-centimeter cartridge with all the equipment and chemicals to do a CD4 cell count. He says the idea is to bring the laboratory to the patient. The device takes a drop of blood. It separates the white cells from the red cells. It then counts the CD4 cells. Mr. Bashir has a financial interest in a business called Daktari Diagnostics. It is working to market "the lab on a chip" and develop a hand-held device to read the results. Other researchers are also developing CD4 counters. Experts say it will be years before any of those devices is available to the public.

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