Diagnostics for Global Health

Millions of people in developing countries die each year from treatable diseases like malaria, owing to the lack of sophisticated laboratories. But advances in the field of microfluidics have the potential to transform health care by allowing “gold standard” laboratory‐based testing to be transferred to the point of care.

CORVALLIS, OREGON – In developed countries, most people take for granted that when they are sick, they will have access to timely diagnosis and treatment. Indeed, while the diagnostic process – which typically involves sending a sample of blood, urine, or tissue to a laboratory for analysis – may be cumbersome and expensive, health-care providers and sophisticated laboratories remain widely available. As a result, the disease burden in the developed world has declined substantially.

By contrast, in the developing world, millions of people die each year from treatable diseases like malaria, owing to the lack of sophisticated laboratories and alternative diagnostic tests. But there is reason for hope: Advances in the field of microfluidics have the potential to transform health care by allowing “gold standard” laboratory-based testing to be transferred to the point of care (POC).

A POC test that provides an accurate and timely result would provide diagnostic access to underserved populations, enabling earlier treatment and helping to avoid mistreatment (treating another disease with similar symptoms). In order to meet their potential, however, POC tests must account for the wide range of factors affecting health-care applications.

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