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Safe, reliable tests to diagnose neglected diseases are as urgently needed as drugs to treat the infections, say Martine Usdin and colleagues of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) in this article in Nature.

In resource-poor settings, tests must be cheap, effective and easy to use in the field, they say.

MSF has developed such a product — a rapid test for malaria — in just two years. It managed this by using published research as a starting point, and then considering the field conditions under which the test would need to work in order to ensure that the final product would be appropriate.

MSF brought together scientists and field clinicians to design the test and then allowed three manufacturers to compete to optimise the test for use and performance. The charity then evaluated the test in field projects, the last of which is now underway.

By speeding up the development process the charity kept costs down and boosted the test's chances of reaching the market; the entire process cost US$100,000, a fraction of the usual price.

The researchers say MSF’s approach could become a new model for developing diagnostic tools for use in resource-poor settings.

Link to full article in Nature

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