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New test for leprosy gives results in less than 10 minutes, New York Times reports

"A simple, fast and inexpensive new test for leprosy offers hope that, even in the poorest countries, victims can be found and cured before they become permanently disabled or disfigured like the shunned lepers of yore," the New York Times reports. "American researchers developed the test, and Brazil's drug regulatory agency registered it last month," the newspaper writes, noting, "A Brazilian diagnostics company, OrangeLife, will manufacture it on the understanding that the price will be $1 or less." According to the newspaper, "The new test gives results in under 10 minutes and is far simpler than the current diagnostic method of cutting open nodules, often in the earlobe, and looking for the bacteria under a microscope."

"A new test was crucial because trained microscope diagnosticians are rare in the rural areas where the disease persists," the New York Times notes, adding, "It is simple: one drop of blood goes into a well on a plastic test strip followed by three drops of solution." Malcolm Duthie, who led the test's development at the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle, "said ... [the test] is expected to detect infections as much as a year before symptoms appear," and "the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome" (McNeil, 2/19).