Weinheim, Germany. November 24, 2015. According to UN estimates, approximately 37 million people worldwide have the AIDS virus HIV in their blood. The majority of them live in rural areas of Africa and Asia, cut off from medical care. Nevertheless, prompt diagnosis is important to treat those affected and to effectively contain the further spread of the virus. An inexpensive, portable mini-lab is making it possible to carry out rapid health checks on the ground. Freudenberg Medical has specially developed components for this mobile lab.
HIV infection leads to an AIDS-related illness after an incubation period of varied length, usually several years. The virus weakens the immune system and makes victims vulnerable to infection. Mostly, the time between initial infection and the appearance of serious symptoms is long. This is why many people infected with HIV are unaware of their condition. As a result, they can spread the virus further without being aware that they are doing so.
With the help of a so-called "lab on a chip", medically trained personnel can go from village to village in affected areas performing rapid tests. They do this by taking a blood sample from the fingertip and feeding it into the unit for analysis. The patient's blood flows through a hose specially developed by Freudenberg Medical.
"As with all our products, we manufacture this hose from a special silicone. This material meets medical standards and has extensive approvals for use in patient care", explained Dr. Dieter Pfeifle, responsible for in-vitro-diagnostic applications at Freudenberg Medical Europe. "We set our own standards for the inner and outer diameters of the tubes, which go beyond what is usual in the market."
In this specific case, an exact hose length is needed: The chip needs a certain amount of blood, which is drawn by vacuum pressure. Length and diameter of the hose assure that the study results are not distorted by too much or too little blood. To ensure optimal product quality, Freudenberg Medical has developed an automated cutting and inspection process. "Our strength lies in individually meeting customer requirements for particularly sensitive applications", said Pfeifle.
The test analysis indicates not only whether the AIDS virus is present in the blood, but also provides information on how far the immunodeficiency has progressed. So even with limited resources, aid organizations can decide whether immediate treatment is necessary. Around 8 million units of the mini-lab are produced annually. "We are proud to be making a small contribution to the fight against HIV with our products", Pfeifle commented.