Trachoma, an infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria leads to blindness in over one million women and children. Although the infection is very treatable there is a difficulty in diagnosing it accurately especially in remote areas. Now scientists have developed a 'sight-saving' dipstick test that can give results in under half an hour.
In a trial involving over 600 Masai children in Tanzania, the scientists found that this test was twice as effective as the traditional one and that too without requirement of electricity or running water. "We have shown this test can work in the most difficult circumstances without even the most basic of laboratory equipment," said Claude-Edouard Michel, one of the leaders of the programme.
The results of their study appear in The Lancet. The researchers have adapted the 8cm long trachoma dipstick test on the "FirstBurst" test, which became so successful in detecting the sexually transmitted form of Chlamydia. Dr Helen Lee of the Cambridge University led the both studies.
"The test is an important advance in the fight against trachoma. At present, the amount of azithromycin pledged by the manufacturer, Pfizer, will not be sufficient to treat everyone living in endemic communities. Yet, much of the drug is wasted in treating communities which no longer need it," said Professor Mabey, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "The new test will enable programme managers to find out for themselves which communities still harbor the infection and thus to focus treatment on the communities which really need it."
The World Health Organization says that 84 million people in 55 countries are potentially in need of treatment for trachoma.