New Device Could Use Saliva to Diagnose Diabetes in Seconds

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Siri, do I have diabetes?

New technology currently being developed could soon allow our smartphones to provide us with diagnoses for conditions like diabetes.

Previously, a study revealed that various illnesses could be detected through saliva samples. Researchers found that traces of other illnesses with an inflammatory component, such as diabetes, could be detected with saliva samples.

Now, a device paired with a smartphone will soon be able to give a diagnosis for type 2 diabetes with a saliva sample in just a few seconds at a very low cost. Researchers from Tec de Monterrey, Mexico and the University of Houston have stated the device will remove the need for needles and will be most useful in low-income populations.

The micro-cartridge will work with the smartphone in detecting type 2 diabetes if a compound in the saliva sample reacts by presenting a fluorescent light with the phone camera recording it.

Why it’s needed

Low-income populations are more affected by diabetes as well as diabetes complications. Many people in these communities may put off going to the doctor to get symptoms checked for reasons like lack of finances or little time, with these reasons also contributing to the onset of the disease itself. With the stresses of being in a low-income situation, sometimes, getting a diagnosis let alone managing it can be cumbersome to poorer individuals.

This is precisely why this device is so groundbreaking to low-income populations. With most people now having greater access to smartphones, a simple test like the one being developed could help in preventing diabetes complications for people in these high-risk communities.

New management technologies

So what happens next once your phone tells you the bad news? This saliva technology has gone further, as researchers from Polytechnic University in Hong Kong have found a way for glucose levels to be checked with saliva tests. In fact, the team found that their sensor is 1,000 times more sensitive than traditional blood tests, like pricking a finger. Traditional testing methods can be expensive and cumbersome for people who are afraid of needles or people who may not know the best practices in handling needles.

The method works by using one drop of saliva to detect glucose levels by sensing changes in electrical currents. In Hong Kong, the price is much more affordable, with each testing chip costing around 3 to 5 Hong Kong dollars. That’s only around 40 to 60 cents in U.S. money. Further testing in accuracy needs to be done, but the developments are promising for people living with diabetes.

Related: Fear of Needles? Use This Device to Better Manage Diabetes

Who knew spit held so many keys to our body’s mysteries? These developments reflect a need for more accessible and affordable testing and management for a condition that affects nearly 30 million people in the United States.