$2 egg-beater could save thousands of lives in developing countries

October 16th, 2008 - 12:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 16 (IANS) Plastic tubing taped to a hand-held egg-beater could save thousands of lives in developing countries.The low-cost centrifuge replacement can separate plasma from blood in minutes, which is used in tests to detect lethal infectious diseases responsible for half the deaths in developing countries.

George Whitesides and colleagues at Harvard University said the plasma obtained is easily good enough to use in tests to detect diseases such as Hepatitis B and cysticercosis.

“The object was to separate serum [plasma] from blood using readily-obtained materials in a resource-constrained environment,” explained Whitesides.

The equipment can be bought from shops for around two dollars. It needs no special training to use, no electricity or maintenance, and can be sterilised with boiling water and reused.

The user can even prepare several samples at once - just by taping more lengths of tubing to the beater, according to Harvard University release.

Contrast this with the bulky, sensitive commercial centrifuges, costing thousands of dollars and requiring extensive operation training, and it’s easy to see how this development could save lives.

“This technique is simple and works remarkably well,” said Doug Weibel, an expert in microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “This technique complements several other ’simple solutions’ that the Whitesides group has developed to tackle point-of-care diagnostics in resource-poor settings.”

These findings were reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Lab on a Chip.

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