Rapid test kit developed for killer disease


Singapore : Scientists have developed a rapid test kit for a lethal disease caused by bacteria in the soil, speeding up diagnosis of melioidosis in three hours instead of five days, a report said Wednesday.

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The disease-causing bacterium called burkholderia pseudomallei can enter the body through a small cut and cause death from pus infection within one week.

Up to 2,000 people are infected in South-East Asia each year.

Ooi Eng Eong, who heads the team at DSO National Laboratories, told The Straits Times that the Singapore Ministry of Defence is interested in using the typewriter-sized kit to diagnose soldiers in the field.

The test kit will be able to identify 70 percent of cases on the first day of symptoms.

“The problem is melioidosis is a great mimicker of different diseases and can take on the forms of an abscess from anywhere on the skin to the liver, blood infections or pneumonia,” Ooi was quoted as saying.

The bacterium causing melioidosis is endemic in South-East Asia as well as north and western Australia, the report said. Cases have been spotted in South America as well.

In an average year, nearly one in five cases of melioidosis ends in death in the city-state. Death is more likely when immunity is low. Some survivors suffer a relapse of the illness years later.