Checking immunity

A team of researchers from the Delhi-based Centre for Biochemical Technology (CBT) has recently formulated an Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (Elisa) -- an immune-based test kit -- for the early detection of aspergillosis, a disease caused by the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus, characterised by attacks of asthma and recurrent chest infibrillations.

"The symptoms of aspergillosis," says P Usha Sharma of the diagnostics division of the CBT, "are very similar to tuberculosis. Thus, often the disease is mistaken for tuberculosis. Existing methods for the diagnosis of aspergillosis include sputum culture, which is time-consuming and less sensitive."

The Elisa test, which has been been introduced for the first time in India, can be used for screening patients of asthma, tuberculosis, and those with weak immune systems either due to AIDS or the use of immunosuppresants.

The test can be completed in 5 hours. If the largescale production of antigens is taken up, the cost of the test is expected to be around Rs 50.

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