Washington: Scientists have created what they claim is a “credit card-swipe” device that could test for hundreds of diseases simultaneously.

A team at Utah University has produced the sensitive prototype device which could check for multiple diseases at a time by acting like a credit card-swipe machine to scan a card loaded with microscopic blood, saliva or urine samples. And, unlike lab tests, results could be available in minutes, not hours to weeks.

According to the scientists, the prototype works on the same principle — giant magnetoresistance or GMR — that’s used to read data on computer hard drives or listen to tunes on portable digital music players.

“Think how fast your PC reads data on a hard drive, and imagine using the same technology to monitor your health,” lead researcher Marc Porter was quoted by the ScienceDaily as saying.

Added co-author Michael Granger: “You can envision this as a wellness check in which a patient sample — blood, urine, saliva — is spotted on a sample stick or card, scanned and then the readout indicates your state of well-being. We have a great sensor able to look for many disease markers.” In their study, the scientists found the method was very sensitive, detecting as few as 800 microscopic particles that mimicked disease related substances.

“GMR’s capability to detect a single particle of a biological substance is just over the horizon which could be used to test blood or other samples for viruses that can cause disease in minute concentrations,” Mr. Porter said. — PTI

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