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DNA test could broaden access to cervical cancer screening

US bioengineers have demonstrated a low-cost, point-of-care DNA test for HPV infections that could make cervical cancer screening more accessible in low- and middle-income countries where the disease kills more than 300,000 women each year.

HPVs infect nearly everyone at some point in their lives, however, often there are no symptoms.

But more than a dozen types of HPV can cause persistent infections that result in cervical cancer, which is preventable and curable if it is detected early and managed effectively.

A team of engineers from Rice University spent more than two years developing a DNA testing platform that combines two technologies – isothermal DNA amplification and lateral flow detection – in a way that greatly simplifies the equipment needs and procedures for testing.

In a new study, the researchers showed their six-step test for HPV-16 and HPV-18 – two types that account for about 70% of cervical cancer – delivered results in 45 minutes and required just two pieces of equipment.

One, a small centrifuge, is widely available for about £400. The other, a purpose-built, dual-chamber heater called NATflow, allowed the researchers to use disposable cartridges to avoid false positives arising from workspace contamination, a major challenge for point-of-care molecular testing.

Image credit | Cmyk

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