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Friday 28th October 2016

Cheap, paper-based test for liver damage

20th November 2012

A new paper test has been invented for serious liver damage, which will be useful for people who undergo treatment in which liver damage is a known side effect.


If doctors know that a patient's blood contains markers, the chemical signs of liver damage, they will know to adjust a patient's medication as needed.

Patients treated for HIV using common drugs such as nevaripine sometimes experience liver damage, especially if they are also infected with the hepatitis B or C viruses.

Standard treatments for tuberculosis, such as rifampicin, work in a similar fashion, and cause liver damage when taken on a long-term basis.

While doctors routinely check for liver damage using existing tests, which detect chemical markers in people's blood, such tests can be costly and are not widely available worldwide.

Jason Rolland, senior research director at Diagnostics For All, which developed the test, said that the new technology would be easy to use, cheap, and portable.

He said that, with existing technology, when testing facilities are not available in developing countries, samples are usually collected at centres and sent by post, and that there was always a danger that such samples would get lost.

The new test is also fast, and can tell whether or not a person has small, moderate, or large numbers of liver markers within 15 minutes.

Existing devices can cost the equivalent of thousands of pounds.

The new device does not require instrumentation, nor even electricity, and can be used all over the world to detect liver markers.

Its rate of accuracy is fairly high, running at more than 90%.

The test process involves taking a blood sample by pricking someone's finger.

The device contains tiny channels and wells, which filter the tiny amount of blood needed for the test.

Rolland said that the test was designed for rural clinics in developing countries, which are targeted in his organisation's mission statement.

Liver damage due to tuberculosis treatment is common in the developing world, with up to 25% of patients suffering from it.

By comparison, only 2% of patients in richer countries suffer from liver damage as a result of treatment, because adjusting a person's medication if they show signs of liver damage is common practice in the developed world.

The current manufacturing infrastructure at Diagnostics For All will allow for the manufacture of between 500 and 1,000 tests per day.

While not all patients will benefit from routine liver function testing, guidelines published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend it for patients who are at high risk from it, such as those infected with hepatitis B or C.


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