ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: March 19, 2010

Toward a three-in-one dipstick test for early detection of parasitic diseases

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Sunday, March 21, 10 p.m., Eastern Time

A new simple, inexpensive three-in-one test to diagnose a terrible trio of parasitic diseases that wreak havoc in the developing world is passing preliminary tests, scientists reported here today. Described during the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society the test is for Chagas’ disease, leishmaniasis, and “sleeping sickness” or African trypanosomiasis.

This year will see about 800,000 new cases of Chagas disease, 2 million of leishmaniasis, and 70,000 of sleeping sickness. Most cases are discovered at a late stage, and together they cause tens of thousands of deaths each year and untold suffering. The drugs used to treat late-stage infections are often toxic and have potentially fatal side effects.

The new test exploits the common heritage of the parasites that cause Chagas, leishmaniasis, and African sleeping sickness. All three are closely related members of what scientists know as the trypanosomatidae family. Working together with Mary Tanga, Ph.D., Senior Director of Medicinal Chemistry in SRI’s Biosciences Division, Ellen Beaulieu and colleagues developed special dyes that allow detection of an early disease stage, does not require the use of sophisticated lab equipment, and can produce results in as little as one hour.


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Skin ulcer caused by leishmaniasis, one of a
terrible trio of parasitic diseases — along with
Chagas disease and sleeping sickness — that
are the target of a three-in-one test.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons, CDC
(High-resolution version)