Washington, March 23 (ANI): Scientists are trying to develop a 3-in-1 'dipstick' test for early detection of parasitic diseases such as Chagas' disease, leishmaniasis, and African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness).
Most cases of these diseases are identified at a late stage, and together they cause tens of thousands of deaths each year and untold suffering. The drugs used to treat late-stage infections are often toxic and have potentially fatal side effects.
Ellen Beaulieu, a medicinal chemist in the Center for Infectious Diseases in the Biosciences Division of SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif., said: "Early diagnosis is the key to improving treatment of these diseases.
"Diagnosis with conventional tests is difficult in developing countries where these diseases occur. 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 heritage of the parasites that cause Chagas, leishmaniasis, and African sleeping sickness. All three are closely related members of what scientists know as the trypanosomatidae family. Working together with Mary Tanga, Senior Director of Medicinal Chemistry in SRI's Biosciences Division, Beaulieu and colleagues developed special dyes that allow detection of an early disease stage. Moreover, the test does not require the use of sophisticated lab equipment, and can produce results in as little as one hour.
Initial tests under laboratory conditions show that the dyes reveal the presence of the parasite marker and glow in ultraviolet light from a simple, handheld lamp. SRI researchers are now trying to improve the sensitivity of the dyes.
The goal is to develop a "dipstick" test that allows detection of the parasite metabolite using a simple paper strip like those used in urine tests for diabetes. Such a test could allow health workers in remote areas to diagnose the diseases by dipping the strip in a drop of blood and exposing it to ultraviolet light.
The test was described at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. (ANI)