Researchers in Singapore have a developed a test kit that detects dengue fever in 30 minutes from a saliva sample. Ben Gruber reports.
Diagnosing dengue has come a long way - these days it's as simple as spitting - thanks to researchers in Singapore who have developed a rapid saliva test for the disease. The device could prove a game changer given the number of people that contract the mosquito-borne virus, which the World Health Organization puts at 100 million each year. Until now, diagnosing dengue fever involved a blood sample to test for antibodies in the body - a process that could take days. The saliva test takes 30 minutes. The new device utilizes nanotechnology which researcher Jackie Ying says has the ability to identify dengue antibodies in saliva. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE OF BIOENGINEERING AND NANOTECHNOLOGY JACKIE YI-RU YING SAYING: "Saliva basically has a smaller amount of antibody concentration, so it's something that will require a more sensitive detection and secondly, saliva contains a lot of proteinaceous substances and this tends to really smudge the results that one would see on a paper-based assay. So in our case, we have developed a new 'stacking-flow' approach that will allow us to remove the proteinaceous substances in saliva, so that it doesn't mix with the detector units which are in the form of nanoprobes. So you will not smudge the results." Ying says her device is designed to detect dengue in people who have already contracted the disease in the past. She says people who get dengue a second time are more likely to suffer from life threatening symptoms. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE OF BIOENGINEERING AND NANOTECHNOLOGY JACKIE YI-RU YING SAYING: "What we want to do is to be able to identify those cases, which might develop into something more severe so that they receive proper medical care and treatment." Ying is working with Japanese biotech company ARKRAY to commercialize the device and hopes to have it on the market in the next few years.