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.
Stephenson J. Diagnosing Sleeping Sickness. JAMA. 2004;291(19):2309. doi:10.1001/jama.291.19.2309-a