Home Anemia Test Kit

From the Comfort of Home: Anemia Test Kit

Anemia is one of the most prevalent issues in public health, affecting an estimated 2 billion people worldwide. Currently, the most common way to test for anemia is by using the Complete Blood Count (CBC). The CBC test uses a large machine that must be operated by a clinical laboratory technician. Additionally, the CBC requires a blood draw to be done by a phlebotomist, calling for a clinic visit. Constantly visiting clinics or hospitals to test for anemia, however, can be a hindrance to care.

Wilbur Lam, Md, PhD
Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD

Emory hematologist-oncologist and biomedical engineer Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD and his team are developing a simple solution: an anemia test kit that people can use in their own homes.

The process is fairly straightforward: a person pricks his or her finger for a drop of blood and transfers it to a tube, which contains a solution that changes color when mixed with the blood. This change in color indicates hemoglobin levels. Similar to a pH test, the user will compare the color against a reference card detecting whether one has anemia, and if so, how severely.

Lam says the at-home anemia test kit would be useful for several demographics. One of these groups would be people who are affected by iron-deficiency or vitamin-deficiency anemia. This kit would allow these people to conduct a test at home and adjust their diets and vitamin intake accordingly. "This could be an easy way for people who are otherwise healthy to screen themselves for anemia," says Lam of the technology.

A second group of who could benefit would be pregnant women and toddlers. Lam says it is important for anemia to be identified and treated in pregnant women before it adversely affects the health of the baby. Being able to test for anemia at home offers a more convenient way for these women to monitor their hemoglobin levels. In addition, anemia in toddlers has been shown to adversely affect cognitive development. Families can use the test kit to regularly screen their children for anemia.

Finally, Lam says the test kit would be highly useful for those affected by chronic blood diseases. "Chronically anemic patients could use this at home similar to the way diabetics measure their glucose," says Lam. "It's even simpler though, because it doesn’t require a machine like the diabetic glucometer."

Red Blood Cells
Red Blood Cells

The at-home anemia test kit stemmed from an undergraduate project in the join biomedical engineering department in Georgia Tech and Emory. It is currently undergoing a clinical assessment study to compare the test’s efficiency with existing anemia test kits. The next phase of development will be creating a single piece cartridge device that includes the testing chamber and chemicals; this device, however, will be even more streamlined and easy to use than the existing reaction tube.

Cliff Michaels, licensing associate in the Office of Technology Transfer, commends the home anemia kit in its ease of use. "The beauty to me in this technology is its simplicity and elegance," says Michaels. "People are familiar with color change as an indicator. Incorporating that concept into an at home diagnostic for such a common disorder means the technology has the potential to impact a wide audience; reaching not only those in the developed world, but those in the developing as well."

The hope is that kit would be licensed out to a company to make commercially available in the U.S. by the end of 2014 or early 2015. After commercialization here, the team hopes to take the technology to the developing world. Since the kit does not require electricity or machinery, Lam says that the kit will provide an easy, mobile form of care.

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