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The World in Medicine
May 19, 2004

Diagnosing Sleeping Sickness

JAMA. 2004;291(19):2309. doi:10.1001/jama.291.19.2309-a

Researchers from England, Angola, and Germany have developed a test that could help identify a pattern of proteins in the blood of individuals infected with the parasite that causes human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness (Lancet. 2004;363:1358-1363). Diagnosis of the infection is problematic because current tests have low accuracy.

The research team used serum samples from 85 patients with the disease and from 146 control patients who had other parasitic and nonparasitic infections. Half of the samples were used to calibrate the diagnostic test, which uses mass spectrometry and computer algorithms to identify a characteristic pattern of proteins, or "proteomic signature," of the sleeping sickness parasite. Using this signature, they tested the remaining samples and found that the test had 100% sensitivity and 98.6% specificity.

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