In New York, Cornell engineers and nutritionists have created a swift solution for a challenging global health problem: a low-cost, rapid test to detect iron and vitamin A deficiencies at the point of care. 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.
The small, portable diagnostic system about the size of a lunchbox contains a blood sample test strip, like those used by diabetics. Included on the test strip are three types of antibodies, which bind to specific biomarkers in the individual’s serum. The test takes just 15 minutes to complete.
The strip measures concentrations of retinol binding protein, which is important for eyesight, C-reactive protein, which can indicate infection and the protein ferritin, an indicator of anemia.