Nevada scientists' rapid diagnostic tests could save lives across the globe

Reported by: Ashley Cullins
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Updated: 4/21 4:45 pm
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- Imagine being sick and knowing the disease could kill you before you're even diagnosed.

It's happening to hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. So scientists at the University of Nevada Medical School are working to diagnose fatal diseases faster.

"It could save, you know, a million lives a year," said David AuCoin, an associate professor in the department of microbiology and immunology.

AuCoin's team is using tiny tests to make a big impact on diagnosing infectious diseases.

"It's based on a home pregnancy test, so it's fairly simple technology, but it's exactly what they need in these resource-poor settings," he said.

AuCoin is targeting a bacterial infection that's prominent in Southeast Asia.

"It's [a disease] called melioidosis and it has a 40 percent mortality rate," AuCoin said.

It causes a high fever and respiratory infection and it used to take several days to diagnose, which is often too late.

"It's estimated to kill about 200 thousand people a year in Southeast Asia," AuCoin said.

The rapid test strip can detect the infection in 10 minutes and help patients get the right treatment as quickly as possible.

"It's resistant to common antibiotics, so you can get them on the right antibiotic and hopefully save their lives," AuCoin said.

His partner Thomas Kozel is using their technology to diagnose a type of fungal meningitis in Africa. AuCoin said it's especially deadly to the 22 million people there who are living with HIV.

"It kills about 600 thousand people a year, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa," he said.

Because the tests are cheap and easy to use, he hopes to see the rapid tests become the new standard.

"So people can figure out what they're infected with, AuCoin said. "I think everybody deserves to know what they're infected with. So I'd like more widespread use of these tests."

AuCoin's team is now working to adapt this same technology to help diagnose whooping cough and lyme disease cases in the U.S.
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Tommy - 4/22/2014 9:35 PM
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Since my travels to Costa Rica six years ago, I have watched my skin, my body and now my nasal passage be ravaged by what I believe to be a parasite that was transmitted by the bite of a female sand fly - I remember distinctively walking right through a swarm of flys as I went on the beach at dusk, all while wearing shorts, a tank top, and opened sandles . What began with extreme fatigue, and a small non-healing lesion on my face, has now progressed to open and active lesions over my entire body, and currently, attacking the integrity of my nose. Not just leaving ugly disfiguring scars as some lesions heal, and new ones replace them, but now involving the actual structure of my nasal passage. Without a doubt in my mind, I have MUCUSAL LEISCHMANASIS - NEW WORLD - PANAMASIS . The medical community at large, here in Northern Nevada has failed to give me a diagnosis. The two exceptions; Dillusional Parasitic, and Leischmanasis. LEISCHMANASIS is virtually nonexistent in the United States, though prevelent in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, there is no easy test to confirm or dismiss this diagnosis of LEISCHMANASIS. False negative test results are common, as this Protozoa Parasite is illusive and very difficult to "catch." So here I am left to reach out to the rest of the world to obtain the medication that as of March 19th, 2014 has FDA approval. MILTEFOSINE has a high cure rate with 28 days of treatment. I share my story, not because it will make a difference is my disease/recovery process, but rather to enlighten our community about the lack of resources and skilled medical personal available to treat those of us with. "Rare" or unusual disease. It pleases me to know that UNR is working on this problem, despite the fact that one UNR Infectious Disease Dr, refused to treat me & told me to go back to Costa Rica, if in fact that is where I was infected. Ticket, please? ~Kristina
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