Low-Cost Test That Detects Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects the lungs; however, it can also cause damage to other organs in the body like the liver and kidneys. At the moment doctors do not have a cure for the disorder. Today a person with cystic fibrosis has a life expectancy of about 40 years. This is actually an improvement from fifty years ago when children with the disorder rarely lived past 10 years. Early detection is one of the reasons why people with cystic fibrosis now live longer. Newborns are usually tested days after they are born so that they can receive treatment as soon as possible.

New Low-Cost Test

Scientists have recently developed a new low-cost test for cystic fibrosis. The two most popular ways to test for the disorder are genetic and sweat tests. Genetic tests can be very expensive, so sweat tests are the most popular option. The current sweat test is a labor-intensive process that is not always accurate due to human error. As a result some, cases go undetected. However, the new sweat test is much cheaper and more effective than previous tests. The new test will especially be important to developing countries that often don’t have access to more advanced tests.

Fluorescent Sensors

The new test uses a new sensor that produces fluorescent light. When the sensor detects chloride, though, it emits less light. Scientists compared their test with the current sweat test and found that the new test is just as accurate. Plus, compared with the current test, the new test is better at detecting a variety of chloride levels. One of the reasons why the older test is prone to errors is because it has trouble distinguishing chloride and others ions. Sometimes medications increase the level of ions like iodide. The new test doesn’t have this issue since it can detect the difference between chloride, iodide, and bromide.

Hospital Trip Vs Home Test

Researchers are working on making their test even more effective by giving patients the ability to conduct the test at home. The prototype involves plugging a device into a cellphone, and this device will detect the light change. This version of the test will save clinics and developing countries a significant amount of money. Researchers hope that their test will also be used to detect other disorders that affect chloride levels like Addison’s disease or ALS.