New Delhi: Scientists have developed a super sensitive test kit -- 10 times more accurate than the gold standard methods currently available -- to detect prostate cancer and viral infections at the earliest stages.
Gold standard is any standardised reliable clinical assessment, which is generally taken to be the best available.
Researchers from the Imperial College London also report that their visual sensor technology is more sensitive for measuring biomarkers, (specific biochemical indicating disease progression), which indicate the onset of prostate cancer and HIV.
Their sensor would benefit developing countries where sophisticated detection equipment is scarce, enabling cheaper and simpler detection and treatments for large numbers of patients, the journal Nature Nanotechnology reports.
The team tested the sensor`s effectiveness by detecting a biomarker called p24 in blood samples, which indicates HIV infection, according to an Imperial College statement.
The sensor works by analysing serum, derived from blood, in a disposable container. If the result is positive for p24 or PSA, there is a reaction that generates irregular clumps of nanoparticles, which give off a distinctive blue hue in a solution inside the container.
If the results are negative the nanoparticles separate into ball-like shapes, creating a reddish hue. Both reactions can be easily seen by the naked eye.
Molly Stevens, professor of materials and bioengineering at Imperial College London, says: "It is vital that patients get periodically tested in order to assess the success of retroviral therapies and check for new cases of infection."
"Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce.
"Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is 10 times cheaper, which could allow more tests to be performed for better screening of many diseases."
The team also reported that the sensor was so sensitive that it was able to detect minute levels of p24 in samples where patients had low viral loads, which could not be diagnosed using existing tests such as the Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay ( ELISA) test and the gold standard nucleic acid based test.
"We also believe that this test could be significantly cheaper to administer, which could pave the way for more widespread use of HIV testing in poorer parts of the world," says Roberto de la Rica, study co-author from Imperial College.