- A new quick, low-cost method helps detect iron and vitamin A deficiencies
- The new tool has the potential to diagnosis the deficiencies early
- Micronutrient deficiencies can be prevented with early detection and early intervention
A new low-cost, rapid test has been developed to detect iron and vitamin A deficiencies among the growing population, revealed Cornell University engineers and nutritionists.
Dr. Saurabh Mehta, associate professor of global health, epidemiology and nutrition in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, and a senior author on this new research said, "Vitamin A and iron deficiency affect more than one-third of the world's population. Problems resulting from these deficiencies - such as blindness, anemia, and death, particularly among children and women - are a major public health challenge."
‘Micronutrient deficiencies can be prevented in women and children by making changes and supplementing diets.’
The small, portable diagnostic system about the size of a lunchbox contains a blood sample test strip, like those used by people with diabetes.
New Diagnostic Tool detects Micronutrient Deficiencies
The research team found a way to include three types of antibodies on the test strips that binds to specific biomarkers in the individual's serum.
Zhengda Lu, a doctoral candidate, and the first author said that the sampling process is as similar to separating iron from other metals.
The strip measures concentrations of retinol-binding protein that is essential for eyesight, C-reactive protein, which is an infection indicator and the protein ferritin that aids in finding anemia. The test would take about only 15 minutes.
David Erickson, the Sibley College Professor at Cornell's Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a senior author on the paper, said that the micronutrient problems need to be addressed at an individual level, which makes the task much easier.
He also said that the key to solving these micronutrient deficiencies is early detection and early intervention. Since we the information changes can be made in the diet. The only task would be to know who is deficient in these micronutrients and by supplementing diets, the complications can be prevented and can keep women and children healthy.
Facts about Vitamin A and Iron Deficiencies
Globally, about 250 million preschool children were found to have a vitamin deficiency, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In regions where childhood deficiencies are prevalent, pregnant women are also likely to be vitamin A deficient and anemic.
Nearly 500,000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year across the world, and half of these children become vulnerable to various diseases and die within a year.
"Doctors and health professionals have sought to reduce the burden of micronutrient deficiencies and their consequences, but it's difficult since we must detect them early on to have the largest impact," said Mehta.
As most of the developing countries lack access to sophisticated tools, this new test has the potential to diagnosis the deficiencies early.
Vitamins are essential nutrients that are required for sustaining life and maintaining physiological functions.
Vitamin deficiencies are widespread, and globally, vitamin A, D, and B12 deficiencies are most prevalent.
Pregnant women, children under five years of age, older adults with chronic ailments, and malnourished people are at an increased risk of developing a vitamin deficiency.
The most significant concern with vitamin deficiency is that it can persist for a generation and thus can have a considerable impact not only at a personal level but also at a social level.
Iron deficiency anemia is a condition that occurs when the body does not get enough iron. Iron aids in producing haemoglobin that helps red blood cells to carry oxygen. Hence, deficiency of iron can lead to tiredness and short of breath.
Iron is important in maintaining several body functions; it is required for maintaining healthy cells, skin, hair and nails.
Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and also increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections.
In pregnant women, vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and increases the risk of maternal mortality.
Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in more than half of all countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia.
- Zhengda Lu et al. Rapid diagnostic testing platform for iron and vitamin A deficiency, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1711464114