New Cholera Test for Relief Workers

ORLANDO - University of Central Florida researchers have developed a new way to test contaminated water for cholera. They hope this technique could one day help relief workers prevent its spread in places like Haiti, where over 2,500 people have died from the infection in the past several months. [audio:|titles=choleratest|artists=Lhee]

UCF researchers said their test will be simpler, cheaper and faster than current ways of detecting cholera. The scientists coat small particles with a type of sugar and then put these in a water sample. Using a special device, they can see if cholera is present within a few minutes.

Researcher Charalambos Kaittanis said this same technique could also be used to protect people against the infection.

For example, if a person swallows a pill containing the sugared particles, he explained the cholera toxin should stick to them, instead of the person’s intestines.

"So eventually, that might translate to finding drugs that are way way cheaper," Kaittanis said. "And you don’t have to spend several years in the pipeline trying to find if they work or not."

Kaitannis emphasized that much more research is needed before he finds a drug candidate, but he thinks relief workers in the field could see the new cholera test in three to five years.

The findings were published this month in the journal of Bioconjugate Chemistry. [ | FPR Spot]