Currently, cholera, an intestinal infection contracted from contaminated food and water, is still a major tropical disease that affects around 20,000 people and claims about 5,000 lives annually. Most at risk are infants, children, and pregnant women, especially in developing countries. There are already existing treatment and diagnostic tools for the disease, but current means for diagnosis take time and are not cost-effective.
Thanks to a new revolutionary test method developed by a team of scientists, cholera intoxication can now be more easily determined.
The new method involves the use of specially designed nanoparticles of iron oxide introduced with certain characteristics of the cholera toxin receptor (GM1) found on the exterior of some cells in a victim’s intestines. With the use of the test method, the presence of cholera toxins can be determined when they bind to the magnetic nanoparticles in a manner that can be easily distinguished by the necessary equipment once they are introduced into the samples — blood, water, or feces — for testing.
Victims die of the disease due to severe dehydration typically caused by extreme diarrhea.
The breakthrough test hardware may prevent this from happening by allowing for immediate diagnosis and subsequent provision of appropriate treatment without delay. This may prove to be largely beneficial in areas far from the nearest health care stations.
Scientists say that the new simple technology can be designed into a portable device so that health care providers could bring and utilize them in the field.