Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Catching the Culprit
18 October 2014

Catching the Culprit

The first step towards treatment is to identify the cause of the problem, but when the disease is poorly understood, or when symptoms can be attributed to multiple suspects, diagnosis can feel more like detective work. Pictured are cells of the fungus Madurella mycetomatis, just one of a range of micro-organisms which cause serious subcutaneous infections known as mycetoma. While bacterial and fungal mycetoma produce similar symptoms, they require very different treatments; even within each group, the response varies from species to species. Identifying the specific culprit is thus crucial to recovery, yet many species can’t be distinguished even when the organism is isolated for imaging or other chemical tests. Genetic analysis is the most accurate diagnostic tool, but this expensive technique is often unavailable in the developing nations where mycetoma is common; facilitating access to this technology will be key to improving the treatment of this condition.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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