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Blood Test for African Sleeping Sickness

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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Wired – Third World Biotech: Blood Test for African Sleeping Sickness:

Australian scientists have developed a blood test for African sleeping sickness that does not require the fancy equipment found in upscale medical labs. Even better, they made the details of their work available for free by publishing a paper in the Feb. 6 issue of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, which operates under a Creative Commons license.

An intriguing example of the sort of open-source or open-access research I’ve been looking into recently.

For those with a scientific bent, here’s a summary of the article (“Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) Method for Rapid Detection of Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense“) from the authors:

Control of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) or sleeping sickness relies on diagnosis and treatment of infected patients. However, the diagnostic tests in routine use have limited sensitivity, due to a characteristically low parasitaemia in infected individuals. Differentiation of infections by Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense (causes acute disease) and T. b. gambiense (causes chronic disease) is essential, as the two forms of disease have different treatment regimens. In the present work, loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) of DNA was successfully used to detect T. b. rhodesiense, with a sensitivity of up to one trypanosome/ml of blood. The LAMP test was efficient and robust, and results were obtained within 35 min. Amplification was possible when a water bath was used to maintain the temperature at isothermal conditions (60–65°C), and results could be read by visual observation of colour change. These findings have increased the prospects for developing a simple molecular test for HAT that can be used with limited equipment at point of care in endemic rural areas.