Paper Strip Test- A New, Easy and Convenient Method to Diagnose Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is usually diagnosed using chest X-rays, which need costly, huge equipment or phlegm sample culture, which would be time consuming. Such tests are beyond the reach of people in remote areas in resource-limited countries. Healthcare workers in these places resort to a simple TB tests which works like a home pregnancy test. It diagnoses TB by detecting the presence of a biomarker called LAM (lipoarabinomannan) in the urine of individuals infected with TB.

Though this test is easy-to-use, cheap and can be administered by healthcare workers, it generates precise results only for patients who are also HIV infected, as their urine has LAM in abundance.

A postdoctoral fellow named Sharon Wong is currently working in this line to produce such a test which can overcome this limitation. Her concept is to apply heat through a device to a strip of chromatography paper dipped in a urine sample. This would evaporate most of the liquid in the sample, leaving behind concentrated LAM. This way, the undetectable levels of LAM in non-HIV patients’ urine, are increased and become easily detectable.

This technique which uses heat on a paper-based device to quickly concentrate biological compounds for clinical analysis has been described in the American Chemical Society journal Analytical Chemistry’s online edition which was published on November 24.

This protocol developed by Dr.Wong can increase the utility of the simplest and a cheap method of diagnosing TB. This could be a boon in patient care in low- resource settings. Wong would direct further research in optimizing the system by fine-tuning the paper strip dimensions, heating duration and temperature, and other variables; checking it on clinical samples; and making it portable by recognizing other unplugged power sources.

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