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Detecting disease with a little TLC

A simple, low cost method to detect toxins from the organism causing the wasting disease Buruli ulcer has been developed by US scientists.

Buruli ulcer is a wasting disease caused by organisms called Mycobacterium Ulcerans, which are in the same group as the organisms causing leprosy and tuberculosis. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital as delayed treatment may cause irreversible deformity, long-term functional disability such as restriction of joint movement, extensive skin lesions and sometimes life-threatening secondary infections.

Polymerase chain reaction of M.ulcerans DNA is commonly used to detect the infection, but is expensive and difficult to maintain reliably say Yoshito Kishi and Thomas Spangenberg from Harvard University, Cambridge. They have created a simple but highly sensitive fluorescent detector for mycolactones, the toxins secreted by M. Ulcerans and distributed within the infected tissue.

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