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Low-Cost, Speedy Liver Test in Development

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A new test could provide a simple, inexpensive and reliable way to check for liver damage, researchers report.

They said the postage-stamp-sized paper-based device shows promise for use in developing countries and as a way to reduce health care costs in the United States.

The test was developed by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Diagnostics for All, a nonprofit based in Cambridge, Mass., dedicated to improving the health of people in developing nations.

"Our device is designed to use a droplet of blood from a finger prick to deliver results in 15 minutes," research co-lead author Dr. Nira Pollock, an infectious diseases doctor at the medical center and the associate director of the Infectious Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory at Boston Children's Hospital, said in a Beth Israel news release.

The test paper changes color in response to increasing levels of liver enzymes.

"It could have significant implications around the world, particularly in developing nations where blood tests can be prohibitively expensive and the results can sometimes take weeks to return," Pollock added.

Clinical tests showed that the paper-based test was more than 90 percent accurate compared with the gold-standard automated platform test.

The test's development is detailed in an article in the Sept. 19 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The next stage is to conduct a field study of the test, which will involve 600 people in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

More information

The American Liver Foundation offers tips for liver health and wellness.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, news release, Sept. 19, 2012

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