Diagnose Sickle Cell anaemia on the Point of Care with 1/4th drop of blood

Indian researchers invent low-cost Sickle Cell anaemia diagnostic equipment at Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore -- a make in India effort.

Dr Nisanth Nambison (2nd from left) along with other researchers of Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. File photo.

A quicker diagnosis of any illnesses will be better for the person, his family, and society. The test of Sickle Cell anaemia is expensive because of the huge upfront cost of imported diagnostic equipment and other recurring expenses in the form of consumables makes. And it is also time-consuming as it is not a routine test, and available only at high-end labs.

Now India need not import costly equipment and reagents as Researchers at the Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, as a part of Make in India and Atma Nirbhar Bharat, have developed a new blood-testing device for Sickle Cell anaemia.

Talking to Inquest, researcher and Prof Dr Nisanth Nambison of Government Homoeopathic Medical College, Bhopal said this indigenous AI-based device — HPOS (High-Performance Optical Sensing) – will give test results in less than 5 minutes and that too in 1/10th of the time and cost of presently used test for diagnosis.

This revolutionary indigenously developed portable palmtop rechargeable device takes only 1/4th of a drop of blood. And it can be deployed in the remotest village for testing at the PoC (Point of care). Thus it will bring down the cost of transportation and curtail the turnaround time in reaching diagnosis which proves to be lifesaving, he said.

Over 1 million people have SCD

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), an inherited disorder of the red blood cells, is a major public health problem. It is characterised by repeated episodes of debilitating pain, which are a common and repeated cause of illness and hospitalisation.

India, with a population of over 1.3 billion individuals, is estimated to be home to over 50% of the world’s patients with SCD. The disease is most prevalent across central India, like a belt extending from south-eastern Gujarat to south-western Odisha.

According to Dr Nambison, over a million people have sickle cell disease in India today. There are nearly two lakh babies born with the condition every year, he said.

Huge economic burden

Sickle Cell anaemia causes loss to the economy because parents of SCD affected children often miss their work or lose their job to look after their children. It adds about Rs 3,500 crore (roughly US$500 million) annually. And also there is a considerable loss to GDP through childhood deaths. In 2017 the loss in this account was calculated at about Rs 1,000 crore (roughly US$150 million).

Being a congenital and hereditary genetic disease, Sickle Cell anaemia is becoming a significant health burden in India. And hence the only way of tackling this huge healthcare loss is the mass screening of individuals and prevention through avoidance of high-risk marriages, he said.

In India, Madhya Pradesh has the highest burden of Sickle Cell anaemia. Dr Nambison that he faced lots of hardships in the diagnosis of Sickle Cell anaemia in the deep tribal villages of Madhya Pradesh.

He faced the challenge not only in the turnaround time for diagnosis but also in the amount of blood drawn from the already anaemic patients. It was a difficult and painful task, he said.

World’s first AI-based portable device

Then he met Prof Dr Sai Siva Gorthi at IISc Bangalore, through their mutual collaboration. And hard work of the researchers’ world’s first AI-Based portable device was invented for instant diagnosis of sickle cell anaemia. This invention will not only make the process easier, save time, but it is also very economical.

This HPOS device has been developed by a team of researchers Rajesh Srinivasan, Eugene Christo VR, Prateek Katare and Aravind Venukumar under the mentorship of Dr Sai Siva Gorthi, Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and Prof Dr Nisanth KM Nambison.

Shanmukha is partnering with Xtranet Technologies Pvt Limited to roll out the device for mass screening of affected communities and the general population.

Test at patient’s doorstep

As of now, USA tech-based imported HPLC machines are used for the diagnosis of Sickle Cell anaemia. It costs over Rs10 lakh with high recurring and operational costs. These machines are bulky, needs 3 – 5ml blood of the patients. And these are available only in sophisticated air-conditioned labs.

Therefore, remote blood collection needs transportation in 24 hours, temperature maintenance of 2 to 8 degrees and requires a team of 4-5 skilled people. This adds up to the cost and delayed turnaround time.

The new technology used in the device makes it portable and only 1/4th drop (5µml) of blood is required for the diagnosis of Sickle Cell Anaemia. The test can be performed at the patient’s doorstep. It is 10 times cheaper than the currently used HPLC machines and priced at around Rs 60,000 to 70,000. Health workers need not any special skill to operate this device. This invention is a wonderful example of Make-in-India & Self-Reliant India, Dr Nambison said.

While it takes 25 to 30 minutes to get the test results from an HPLC machine, we get the results of the test with HPOS device in less than 5 minutes.

How this invention is useful:

Currently available options

•        The cost of HPLC Machine is about Rs 10 lakh.

•        A person has to pay about Rs 400-700 for a confirmatory HPLC test.

•        The person needs to give 3 to 5 ml blood for the test.

•        To store blood, the sample has to be kept at a specified temperature.

•        It requires AC room and resources to operate the machine, which requires electricity and other sources of energy.

•        High recurring and operational cost.     

•        The HPLC test usually takes 25 to 30 minutes, and it takes 1-2 days for the patient to get the report.

•        HPLC testing requires a trained pathologist and lab technician.

•        Difficult interpretation of test results as it involves calculation.

Benefits of HPOS device

•        Each person has to pay Rs 10 for the primary screening test i.e. solubility test.

•        Both primary and confirmatory testing can be done on the same device without any extra expense.

•        The cost of HPOS device is about Rs 60,000 to 70,000.

•        Will save crores of rupees and reduce the economic burden of the Government.

•        An amount of 1/4th of a drop of blood can also be tested.

•        No need to store the blood.

•        Handy mobile operated device can be used at the point of care.

•        Low recurring and operational cost.

•        This device performs blood test in less than 05 minutes, and the patient gets a report immediately.

•        No special skills are required to test with this device.

•        AI based device gives results as +ve or -Ve.

Implementation of this invention

–        Will save crores of Rupees of the public exchequer.

–        Will require minimal manpower.

–        Will save lots of precious time of sufferers.


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