Before starting Classic Retrofit back in April 2015, Chief Engineer, Jonny Hart, had a long career in electronic systems engineering on defence and medical projects. One of the projects Jonny worked on was the SAMBA II: an easily transportable rapid diagnostic scanner developed by a UK organisation to test for HIV across the third world. A report on yesterday's BBC news covered how the technology is now being used to cut diagnosis times in COVID-19 coronavirus testing, down to as little as ninety minutes from a current timeline of up to four days.
About SAMBA viral diagnostics
SAMBA (Simple AMplification-Based Assay) was the first diagnostic test capable of being implemented in low-resource settings to detect the presence of the HIV virus' genetic material, rather than antibodies created by our bodies in response to infection. As the SAMBA test was focused on the "viral load", the technology was well suited to diagnosing newly-infected HIV patients (including newborn babies) and monitoring resistance to anti-retroviral drugs.
SAMBA was designed to be quick and easy to use and has been widely installed in clinics across Africa Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It transformed diagnosis of the illness in the field. 2013 data showed that two-thirds of the estimated 33 million individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) worldwide lived in sub-Saharan Africa, where three-quarters of the deaths from AIDS also occurred.
While HIV remains a huge issue, the most recent UN data shows that new HIV infections have declined by over 15%, down from a 2.1 million in 2010 to approximately 1.7 million in 2018. It's very rewarding to think that cutting edge technology that we helped to develop is now being used in the fight against epidemic and pandemic virus emergencies.