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A new form of glucose test could bring better care to remote, impoverished areas

September 4, 2012 in News

Increasing rates of type 2 diabetes are a concern worldwide, and the common concerns have led to some exciting opportunities for international research cooperation. One of the emerging concerns for these international research teams is the beginnings of the epidemic to impoverished, rural areas in countries like China and India. Healthcare is often hard to come by in these areas, with families often unable to prioritize health care over other essentials such as food and shelter.

Although glucose monitors and test strips are more affordable than ever, the cost is still prohibitive in many of these areas. Communicating cross-culturally about the importance of glucose management can be difficult as well. The necessity of performing multiple daily finger sticks can be a tough sell under these circumstances.

One research team recently announced a breakthrough that could alleviate many of these issues. They have developed an inexpensive glucose test strip that tests urine rather than blood. The device consists of three electrodes, a buffer solution, a piece of paper (or nitrocellulose) and a plastic dish. The system is quick to make, cheaper to assemble, and so far has produced results comparable to those documented on systems that check glucose with a blood test.

The system works due to a chemical reaction between glucose in the urine sample and an enzyme called glucose oxidase, which is embedded in the paper strip. When the two chemicals react, they create hydrogen peroxide, which is picked up by the electrodes in the dish. The more glucose in the urine sample, the more hydrogen peroxide is produced.

Such devices could greatly improve access to proper diabetes care in remote areas, and make it more affordable to bring quality care to impoverished population, or cultures for whom blood testing is aversive.

What do you think? If a urine-based testing system were commercially available, would it be a preferable option?

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