Simple Test for Parasitic Diseases Created

SAN FRANCISCO, March 23 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’re creating a simple, inexpensive three-in-one “dipstick” test to identify three parasitic diseases plaguing some developing nations.

The test is designed to identify Chagas’ disease, leishmaniasis and “sleeping sickness” or African trypanosomiasis. Together, the diseases cause tens of thousands of deaths each year, researchers said.


Scientists said current tests used to identify the diseases either take too long, involve expensive lab equipment or require specially trained healthcare workers.

“Early diagnosis is the key to improving treatment of these diseases,” said Ellen Beaulieu, a medicinal chemist at the Center for Infectious Diseases at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif. “We hope that our low-cost, simple test will play a role in helping poorer parts of the world combat these diseases and the poverty they engender.”

The new test exploits the common family of parasites that cause Chagas, leishmaniasis and African sleeping sickness. Beaulieu, Mary Tanga and colleagues developed special dyes that do not require the use of sophisticated lab equipment and can produce results in as little as one hour.

The goal, Beaulieu said, is to develop a “dipstick” version of the test that allows detection of the parasite metabolite using a simple paper strip, such as those used in urine tests for diabetes.

The research was presented this week in San Francisco during a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

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