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Hope for major advance in fighting world killer disease

"All cases of diarrhoea look the same to start with, and children are usually given oral rehydration therapy, which is cheap and puts back fluids lost by diarrhoea. But disease caused by EPEC and Shigella does not usually respond to oral rehydration therapy. They are much more severe forms of the disease and even if they don't kill they can often inflict irreversible damage that interferes with the child's growth and development.

"Current practice in most Indian clinics is only to test for E. coli and Shigella if the child's symptoms have not responded to oral rehydration therapy by three days. The usual tests then take a further three days, by which time the disease may have progressed to a very serious stage. Our project has been to design a rapid method to identify these two types of the disease so that doctors can focus treatment immediately on those children who need it, before the damage is done.

"It's often said that, if a medical intervention costs more than US$½ it's not going to be viable in developing countries. Our test is quick, robust and cheap. At a workshop we held recently at Anna University, more than 30 people, ranging from technicians and students to clinical professors, had the opportunity to perform the tests with their own hands and see the results with their own eyes. They were very impressed!"

In the developing world it is not possible on cost grounds to give antibiotics to every child with diarrhoea, and in any case antibiotics would not work in every case. The Leicester test includes the facility to determine antibiotic resistance profiles quickly so that the correct antibiotics can be used.

With basic equipment donated by the EACh-ChilD project, the test is now being piloted in four hospitals in south India, one of which, the Government Children's Hospital in Chennai, is the biggest children's hospital in Asia. Once any further improvements are made following these trials, then Professor William
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Source:University of Leicester


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