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Medical team develops new reactive test paper for home

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A Taiwanese medical team yesterday published their latest research, saying that with the cooperation of Hokkaido University, they have succeeded in developing a method utilizing a special piece of reactive paper to test for bullous pemphigoid (BP), a fatal skin disease, which enables people to check for the disease by themselves in a convenient and inexpensive way.

Cheng Chao-min (鄭兆敏), a professor at the Institute of NanoEngineering and MicroSystems at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), said that the reason the research took place is because they wanted to develop an inexpensive and convenient tool for regions that lack medical resources. He further stated that it was pregnancy test kits that inspired them to pursue this avenue of research.

Through the efforts of the NTHU, the National Cheng Kung University Hospital (NCKU) and Hokkaido University, the method is proven to be effective in diagnosing BP.

In addition, the reactive paper can also be used in detecting diabetic retinopathy. According to Cheng, the research team hopes to work on developing more kinds of reactive paper to diagnose other diseases like blistering autoimmune diseases or fatal skin afflictions in the future.

Cheng said that people usually have blood drawn to determine from which disease they suffer, a method which often takes several hours or even days. However, with the new method, detecting whether a patient suffers from BP is simple: liquid is drawn from a blister on the skin of the patient. The color of the reactive paper will change when it comes into contact with BP antibodies present in the liquid. As a result, the diagnosis of BP can be made within an hour.

According to Hsu Chao-kai (許釗凱), a doctor at the Department of Dermatology of NCKU, the medical team has examined 20 patients suffering from BP, most of them over 60. In addition, the doctors also had a control group consisting of patients with scalded skin, said Hsu.

Hsu said that the medical team will continue their experiments with reactive paper and do tests on another 150 patients. In addition, the team is also cooperating with Yen Tsung-hai (嚴宗海), a doctor at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, hoping to develop reactive papers that can reveal illegal additives in food.

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