People who are concerned that they may have picked up a sexually transmitted infection (STI) could soon be able to test themselves using their mobile phones.
STIs are now at their highest level for 30 years, and last year there were almost half a million new diagnoses of STIs in the UK.
Scientists from the University of London are developing a new self-testing device which users can plug into their mobile phones for a near-instant diagnosis.
The Medical Research Council and the UK Clinical Research Collaboration have provided £4 million in funding for the research. A further £1.7 million has been provided by a consortium of researchers.
Users will put some of their urine on the device, which will then need to be plugged into a mobile phone or computer. The device’s software will then diagnose any infection and recommend a course of action.
Dr Tariq Sadiq, the project’s leader, said: “Your mobile phone can be your mobile doctor. It diagnoses whether you’ve got one of a range of STIs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea and tells you where to go next to get treatment”.
However, previous on-the-go STI tests, such as a saliva test for HIV, have not been as accurate as companies have claimed.
In August the Health Protection Agency (HPA) released new figures showing that there were 482,696 new diagnoses of STIs in the UK last year.
Experts expressed alarm at the resurgence of infections such as gonorrhoea, which increased by six per cent after having previously been in decline.
The figures from the HPA revealed that those between the ages of 15 and 24, particularly young women, continue to be most affected by STIs in the UK.
And one in ten of those aged between 15 and 24 who are treated at a clinic for an STI return within a year.
Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the HPA’s STI team, said: “Re-infection is also a worrying issue – the numbers we’re seeing in teenagers are of particular concern as this suggests teenagers are repeatedly putting their own, as well as others, long term health at risk from STIs.”
And in 2009 it was revealed that there had been a 58 per cent increase in cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) amongst under-16s between 2003 and 2007.
According to national health bodies, the number of STIs among youngsters rose by 58 per cent from 2,474 in 2003 to 3,913 in 2007.
This significant rise in cases of STIs among young people came despite millions of pounds being spent on failed Government sexual health policies.