Doctors and scientists in Britain have claimed that people can soon diagnose sexually-transmitted diseases (STD) by urinating on a computer chip, plugging it into their cell phones or computers, and getting the results within minutes.
However, Australia’s foremost sexual health expert has raised concerns about the idea, saying it may be a long time before such a product is consumer-ready.
British experts are developing small devices, similar to pregnancy testing kits, that will tell people if they have caught an infection through sexual contact.
“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,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Dr Tariq Sadiq, the sexual health expert from the University of London who is leading the project, as telling The Guardian.
He said young people especially are too embarrassed to visit the doctor about STDs, which was making the situation worse.
Meanwhile, in HIV Epidemiology & Clinical Research, said he maintained a ‘healthy scepticism’ about the project.
“If they say that’s what they’re aspiring to that would be terrific, but unfortunately there”s no such test yet – at this stage it’s just fantasy,” said Professor Basil Donovan, head of the sexual health program at the University of New South Wales” National Centre.
“There was a paper published just a couple of weeks ago where they looked at all of the commercially available home testing kits for chlamydia and they were just a joke – if someone had chlamydia there was only a 10 percent chance that the test would show it up,” he added.
Donovan said he believed it was a ‘great idea’, concurring with Sadiq that a big problem with current STD testing was that ‘it is too embarrassing and too expensive to test everyone all the time’.
Professor Adrian Mindel, sexual health medicine expert at the University of Sydney and the director of the sexually transmitted infections research centre at Westmead Hospital, said the STD problem could not be solved with technology alone.
“I don’t think the issue is the rapid test, it’s getting people to do the test that is the issue and that to me is the fundamental barrier rather than the technology,” he said.
“People have to identify themselves as being at risk and that is the difficulty at the moment,” he added.