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Rare Sheep Could Be Key To Better Diagnostic Tests In Developing World

The newest revolution in microbiology testing walks on four legs and says "baa."

It's the hair sheep, a less-hirsute version of the familiar woolly barnyard resident. A new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine, which is to be published July 3 in PLoS ONE, finds that not only are these ruminants low-maintenance and parasite-resistant, they're also perfect blood donors for the microbiology tests necessary to diagnose infectious disease in the developing world.

Identifying microbes from a patient's urine or sputum requires growing those microbes in culture dishes filled with gelatinous agar and a small amount of blood. The blood provides nutrients to the growing bugs and also provides clues as to the microbes' identities: Microbiologists can rule out or identify certain strains of bacteria based on how the organisms interact with the blood cells in culture.
 
 

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