Dipstick Technology Allows for Fast Disease Detection Without Sophisticated Equipment
Scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia (UQ) have developed a simple and effective method for diagnosing diseases in living organisms, which has implications for use on isolated regions where advanced technology has not yet populated. Dubbed ‘dipstick technology,’ the process can purify and analyze ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from microorganic samples in less than a minute—without the need for special equipment or personnel requiring a particular skill set.
Pathogens can consist of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that may trigger diseases in plants, animals, and humans. Being capable of analyzing biologic samples quickly will make devising of treatment plans easier and faster, which can prove enormously beneficial when time is critical.
The dipstick has already been used on isolated plantations in Papua New Guinea with great success, allowing for the exposure of pathogens in trees, humans, livestock, and water sources for drinking. Even in low-tech settings, disease can quickly be isolated and evaluated, allowing for time to develop a useful solution.
The findings on the field encourages researchers to believe that it might be especially effective in underdeveloped nations where health equipment and facilities are in short supply. In such locations, dipstick technology has the potential to tackle agricultural problems, health issues, and environmental disasters that plague nations and communities.
The UQ team of scientists maintain that nucleic acid purification is a powerful tool in molecular biology but too cumbersome to use for most field operations, as the process is time-consuming and requires the expertise of trained and specialized workers. Extracting genetic material from biological samples has always been done in a laboratory setting and usually involves complex machinery and time to process the information.
The researchers had a breakthrough when they discovered a proprietary medium that could capture and isolate nucleic acids while preventing the degradation of the genetic sample during the process of washing away contaminants. Dipstick technology was born, which passed preliminary testing on a narrow range of biological samples only to discover later that a much broader range of samples could also be captured and analyzed effectively.
UniQuest, the commercial arm of UQ, has filed a patent for their dipstick technology, but they are also seeking commercial partners who are willing to finance large-scale production for the purpose of distributing the tech to less developed countries. Regardless of the logistics of who uses the dipstick, its application and role in modern medicine is tantamount to advancing the science of medicine.