Do you have liver flukes? Find out the easy way now

February 12th, 2009 - 11:50 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 12 (IANS) Researchers have developed a non-invasive screening method for potentially fatal liver and intestinal flukes plaguing nine million people throughout southeast Asia.
The PCR test is already being used by Thai researchers to screen for the presence of three species of liver and intestinal flukes between a few millimetres and one centimetre long.

The highly accurate test can identify the species involved from one gene of an egg of a fluke among billions of other genes in a single faecal sample.

Rebecca Traub and Julie Macaranas, from University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Veterinary Science, developed the test after field work in Thailand, testing samples from more than 300 people in a village 150 km east of Bangkok.

To develop the molecular-based test, Traub also called on the parasite identification expertise of UQ associate professor Tom Cribb, from the Centre for Marine Studies.

The breakthrough test is a vast improvement on existing testing methods to identify the flukes, involving a painful process of inducing people to purge fully grown flukes.

The leaf-shaped flukes enter the human digestive tract through eating raw fish, an important cultural practice which continues despite authorities warning against it.

In extreme cases, the flukes can cause cancer of the bile duct and/or painful stones in the bile duct, leading to liver disease and even death, said an UQ release.

Traub said her research was important because 70 percent of the world’s emerging infectious diseases involved an animal source or host. Examples include Hendra Virus, SARS, Avian Flu and Hydatid Disease.

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