Scientists have described a key advance toward a faster, simple and better test for detecting cholera. Cholera affects more than 200,000 people and causing about 5,000 deaths annually. Cholera affected cases mostly involve infants, children and elderly.
J. Manuel Perez and colleagues note that cholera is an intestinal infection from food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It produces a toxin that can cause severe diarrhea, which can lead to rapid dehydration and death. Prompt treatment thus is essential, and yet existing tests to diagnose cholera are time-consuming, expensive, and require the use of complex equipment.Cholera is on the rampage in Haiti and almost 40 other countries.
The scientists describe a key advance toward a better, faster test. The new method uses specially prepared nanoparticles of iron oxide, each barely 1/50,000th the width of a single human hair, coated with a type of sugar called dextran. To achieve this, they looked for specific characteristics of the cholera toxin receptor (GM1) found on cells' surface in the victim's gut, and then they introduced these features to their nanoparticles. When the magnetic nanoparticles are added to water, blood, or other fluids to be tested, the cholera toxin binds to the nanoparticles in a way that can be easily detected by instruments. The test hardware can be turned into portable gear that health care workers could use in the field, the scientists say. The approach also shows promise for treating cholera intoxication. The report appears in ACS' journal Bioconjugate Chemistry