STDs may be able to be diagnosed by "patients" themselves, using their computer or even mobile phone. The U.K. hopes this will help stem the rising tide of chlamydia gonorrhea, and herpes, among young people.
To complete the test, people who suspect they have been infected will put urine or saliva on a computer chip or device about the size of a USB flash drive, plug it into their phone (we assume, a smartphone) or computer and receive a diagnosis within a few minutes. They will be told if they are infected, and if so exactly which STD they have.
The initiative has received £4M ($6.5M) in funding thus far, from seven funders, including the Medical Research Council via a forum called the U.K. Clinical Research Collaboration.
Those who recall condom vending machines in nightclubs and restroom might eventually see such STD detectors available in similar vending machines. Researchers hope to see them sell for 50p or £1 ($1.62).
Dr. Tariq Sadiq, a senior lecturer and consultant physician in sexual health and HIV at St George's, University of London, who is leading the project,said,
"Your mobile phone can be your mobile doctor. It diagnoses whether you've got one of a range of STIs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea and tells you where to go next to get treatment. We need to tackle the rising epidemic of STIs, which have been going up and up and up. Britain is one of the worst [countries] in western Europe for teenage pregnancy and STIs. That there's a major embarrassment factor here, especially among young people, makes the situation worse."
It is hoped that the self-testing kits will attract techn-savvy young people, who may face that embarassment issue. Public health experts are concerned that many are too embarrassed to visit a doctor or a clinic to be tested.
STIs reached a record 482,696 in the U.K. in 2009. Two-thirds of women reporting a new STI were under 25, as were more than half of men.