LA JOLLA, CA October 6, 2010 For Immediate Release Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have developed the first screening method that rapidly identifies individuals with active river blindness, a parasitic disease that afflicts an estimated 37 million people. The test could change the current strategy of mass treatment in areas where river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, is suspected.
The study was published online on October 5, 2010, by the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
"A sensitive and reproducible diagnostic test for this disease is crucial for the success of worldwide control and elimination programs," said Kim Janda, Ph.D., a professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Immunology and Microbial Science, member of The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, and director of The Worm Institute for Research and Medicine (WIRM) at Scripps Research. "This diagnostic tool could be a game-changer for how the disease will be treated in the future."
Judith Denery, Ph.D., a senior research associate in the Janda laboratory and the paper's first author, adds, "Because current tests often give false negatives, they are unreliable indicators of infection. For organizations such as the World Health Organization and others working to eliminate the disease, this lack of accuracy is frustrating, time-consuming, and costly."
A Stubborn Disease
The vast majority of onchocerciasis infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest disease burden in rural Nigeria, and to a lesser degree in Yemen and in parts of Central and South America. Although control and elimination efforts over the last decade are bearing fruit, and large areas have a much lower infection rate than in the past, the disease still continues to cause misery for millions.
Humans acquire the disease after they are repeatedly bitten by black flies that harbor the worm, Onchocerca volvulus, which breed
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Scripps Research Institute