Diagnostic tool offers on-the-spot HIV testing to millions living with HIV in Africa

A new transformative point-of-care diagnostic which gives instant results for the detection of genetic material from the HIV virus is being rolled out across Africa. The small, highly portable machine – known as SAMBA II – will help transform the lives of millions, especially HIV exposed infants who have a one in two chance of early death if HIV infection is not diagnosed within the first six weeks of life and if they are not immediately initiated on treatment.

Already available in Uganda and Malawi, SAMBA II has just received product approval in Kenya, making available for the first time rapid, accurate and cost-effective DNA point-of-care diagnosis in even the most environmentally challenging and resource-limited settings.

Developed by Diagnostics for the Real World, a spin-out company from the University of Cambridge, the new SAMBA II instrument and chemistry has been a decade in the making.

SAMBA II makes use of innovative technology to offer an effective sample-in-results-out test without the need for centralised laboratories or specialist technicians. It integrates the whole testing process within a single instrument using ready-made disposable cartridges. Easy to read results are obtained in less than two hours and indicated by a simple blue line similar to a pregnancy test.

Until now nucleic acid based HIV tests have taken many hours to perform and required specialist facilities and highly-trained personnel. The necessity of transporting samples over long distances to centralised laboratories creates numerous logistical problems including long delays. In the meantime, many patients may be lost before they can be initiated on treatment. By bringing rapid testing to the point-of-care, SAMBA II solves these difficulties.

Dr Helen Lee, Director of Research at the Department of Haematology, University of Cambridge and CEO of Diagnostics for the Real World said: