The diagnosis and treatment of rare or poorly understood tropical diseases is sometimes relatively straightforward in a well-equipped hospital with specialist staff. But by their nature, they often persist in areas with limited resources, so there’s a need for simpler tests. Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a parasitic disease transmitted by sandflies. It mostly affects young people, and can be fatal if untreated. Diagnosis usually requires microscope analysis of samples collected through risky and uncomfortable invasive methods, or molecular tests that rely on specialist kit. A new proposed test promises to clearly visualise results with a simple blood test using easily stored reagents. A study trialled its reliability, compared to molecular tests, with suspected VL patients in Sudan and found it almost perfect. It produces easily understood results (pictured, a negative example top left, positive bottom right, and varied results in the other tubes), with – crucially – relatively cheap and simple equipment.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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