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A research team from Cornell University in the US has developed a small, portable system for the diagnosis of debilitating nutrient deficiency.

Funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), the new diagnostic system is designed to facilitate on-field blood testing for vitamin A and iron deficiencies.

“The new low-cost, rapid blood test delivers three diagnostic results through a colour-sensitive, disposable test strip.”

Statistics suggest that one third of the world’s population suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. These conditions can result in health disorders such as vision impairment due to low vitamin A or anaemia because of iron deficiency.

The new low-cost, rapid blood test delivers three diagnostic results through a colour-sensitive, disposable test strip.

It can identify iron deficiency if a patient’s ferritin protein levels are lower than the normal threshold and can also indicate below normal cases of retinol-binding protein, which is a form of vitamin A.

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In addition, the test strip detects a protein associated with inflammation that can change results, in turn affecting a clinician’s interpretation of the results.

NIBIB Connected Health, Point-of-Care Technologies, and Telehealth programmes director Tiffani Lash said: “Rapid diagnostic testing platforms, such as the test strip for iron and Vitamin A levels, demonstrate positive examples of point of care technologies that merge scientific and technological capabilities with clinical need.

“This type of intervention could have a significant impact in preventing disease, especially in low-resource countries.”

The research team tested 43 human samples and found that the new diagnostic system delivered accurate results compared to conventional test kit approaches.

The system successfully identified 21% of iron deficiency cases, 9% of vitamin A deficiency cases and 23% of minimal-to-moderate inflammation cases.