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Rare sheep could be key to better diagnostic tests in developing world, says Stanford study
Date:7/3/2009

"Up until the time I saw a hair sheep which I first saw in Botswana I had no idea there was even such a thing," said Baron, who is associate director of Stanford's clinical microbiology lab, interim director of the clinical virology lab, and associate chair of pathology for faculty development. She wasted no time in learning about the animals, finding that they resist parasites, don't need to be sheared, and do well in the tropical climes prevalent in much of the developing world.

But no one had tested whether their blood was equivalent to horse or sheep blood. So, calling in a favor from a colleague with a hobby farm near Walnut Creek, Calif., Baron and her colleagues collected blood from hair sheep the animals are remarkably mellow about the donations, she said and created test cultures using the blood. Then, they ran a series of common diagnostic tests.

"It worked for every single thing," Baron said.

The researchers also found that they could collect the blood in donation bags, much like those human donors might see at the Red Cross. That's a big advantage over the defibrination process the developed world uses. To defibrinate blood, technicians must shake the samples in a glass jar filled with hundreds of tiny glass beads constantly during and after the donation. That's fine in a lab with machines to do the shaking and autoclaves to sterilize all of those beads, but it's an enormous burden in labs without that equipment. Fortunately, Baron found, hair sheep blood collected in donation bags performed the same as defibrinated blood.

"It's very important," said Bruce Hanna, PhD, professor of pathology and microbiology at the New York University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. "This paper found an alternative that is able to be produced in Africa and provides identical results to the standardized products that are used in this country."

Michele Barry, MD, senior associate dean for global heal
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Contact: Jonathan Rabinovitz
jrabin@stanford.edu
650-724-2459
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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