News FocusRevolutionizing Egypt's Science

Tackling Egypt's New Plague

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Science  15 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6040, pp. 281
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6040.281

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Half a million Egyptians are infected with hepatitis C each year, the highest rate in the world. The disease, which can lead to severe liver damage and death, has been spread by unsterilized needles used in the past to inject villagers with treatments for the chronic illness of schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection. The standard treatment for hepatitis C is interferon, a genetically engineered drug that can cost more than $12,000 per patient, a staggering figure for a developing country. Just testing for hepatitis C is time-consuming and expensive. Now, Egyptian and Qatari researchers have come up with a nanotechnology method that they say detects viral RNA more quickly and cheaply than current methods. A better, cheaper detection method would save money and ensure that only people with the virus are treated.