Scientists backed by Nestlé say they have successfully developed the first iron deficiency test that does not require taking a blood sample. The scientists say the work could benefit millions of people by making it easier and cheaper to detect the condition.
“It involves using a small optical fibre to shine a blue laser light onto the lower lip,” the scientists noted in a research published in Nature Communications.
“The new test for iron deficiency takes about a minute and provides immediate results. If zinc protoporphyrin – a chemical compound found in the blood of iron deficient people – is present, then it gives off a fluorescent light in response.”
Iron deficiency affects more people than any other health problem, according to the World Health Organization. Women and children are particularly at risk, and left untreated it can cause serious mental and physical harm.
According to report from the extensive research, which was first accepted on 18 January 2016 and published on 17 February 2016, most iron-deficient individuals are unaware that they need more iron. This is because current tests require taking blood and laboratory facilities to analyse it.
Nestle, which help fund the development of the research work, provided more than 183 billion servings of fortified food worldwide in 2014 and has a corporate commitment to help reduce the risk of iron deficiency through micronutrient fortification.