A low-cost, rapid test can detect iron and vitamin A deficiencies at the point of care. The small, portable diagnostic system about the size of a lunchbox contains a blood sample test strip, like those used by diabetics.
The researchers found a way to include on the test strip three types of antibodies, which bind to specific biomarkers in the individual’s serum. The sampling process is similar to picking up iron among other metals. The strip measures concentrations of retinol binding protein (important for eyesight), C-reactive protein (an infection indicator) and the protein ferritin (to find anemia). The test takes just 15 minutes to complete.
At any given time, about 250 million preschool-age children globally are deficient in vitamin A, according to the World Health Organization. In those regions where childhood deficiencies are prevalent, pregnant women are likely vitamin A deficient and anemic, as well. Annually, up to 500,000 vitamin A-deficient children around the world become blind and about half of those children die within a year, as they become vulnerable to other diseases.