New York – A new cost-effective DNA test for the human papillomavirus (HPV) could save the lives of more than 250,000 women living in developing countries a year. With financing from the Gates Foundation, Qiagen, the test's manufacturer, has developed a $5 version of the DNA test, and the price could go lower with enough orders, the company said.
Linda Alexander, vice president of Women's Health and Global Advocacy at Qiagen, first introduced the breakthrough medical test at the Women Deliver conference in October 2007. Recently, the company released data from an eight-year study of 130,000 women in India that showed a single screening with the DNA test beats all other methods at preventing advanced cancer and death. Cervical cancer is caused by a few of the 150 strains of HPV that women pick up once they become sexually active.
Many scientists believe that this new test could replace Pap smears for women all over the world, but especially in developing countries. Pap smears are not ideally suited for use in developing counties because there are too few pathologists and because it requires multiple visits to receive results or additional tests. Dr. Jan Agosti, the Gates Foundation officer overseeing screenings in developing countries, said that Qiagen’s new $5 test runs on batteries without water or refrigeration, and takes less than three hours to diagnose results.
According to Alexander, Qiagen has committed to donating 1 million HPV screening kits to Africa.
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