Saliva test

To detect hepatitis C

Published: Tuesday 31 January 2006

Scientists from Israel have devised a new technique to detect the virus that causes hepatitis C. Based on analysing saliva samples, the new method is cheap and so can be used for mass screening.

Worldwide, over 170 million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and the prevalence of the disease is higher in developing nations. Current methods of detecting the disease are based on blood samples, which are costly as they need sophisticated equipment operated by skilled personnel.

The new method, developed by scientists led by Arieh Yaari of the Soroka University Medical Center, requires just sterile cups and a kit. The test can be carried out manually (does not require any electricity). The method is based on looking for antibodies produced in response to HCV in saliva samples. It was published in the online version of the Journal of Virological Methods on December 19, 2005.

The scientists tested the method on 37 patients infected with HCV. The test was fully successful on patients who displayed symptoms and 94 per cent successful on infected patients who were yet to develop the symptoms vis--vis a success rate of only 63 per cent with the conventional serum test.

The scientists will now test the method on a larger group of subjects.

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