Inexpensive system tests urine for glucose

Researchers have designed an inexpensive, reusable paper-based system for testing the concentration of glucose in urine, according to a paper published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

The new reusable system could one day replace the disposable test strips used to monitor blood glucose in diabetes today.

Although the cost of disposable test strips thrown away after each measurement may seem minimal, it poses a barrier in rural, impoverished areas of the world that struggle to meet basic daily needs.

“Because of its low cost, this system could be used in medical environments that are resource-limited,” wrote the authors of the study.

Researchers from Harvard University, University of Maryland and universities in The Netherlands and Brazil devised the electrochemical system that uses paper and nitrocellulose on a working electrode. Gravity and a simple pipetting device avoids the need to use more costly commercial micropipets.

Barriers to blood glucose testing
This noninvasive method may address barriers to testing glucose in the blood, which requires a finger prick to retrieve a drop of blood at each test.

Blood sugar testing is usually done with a needle called a lancet. It also requires an electronic glucose monitor, a lancing device, a test strip, and a vial holding the test strips.

Some people avoid checking their blood glucose because it sometimes hurts. They also perceive that monitoring can be inconvenient and expensive.

Other times, patients may feel that checking blood glucose reminds then about their disease and makes them feel bad about themselves, according to Mayo Clinic.

About 47 percent of adults with type 2 diabetes on insulin don't monitor their blood sugar, according to an American Diabetes Association survey. Some 76 percent of those with type 2 diabetes not using insulin do not check.

Among adults with type 1 diabetes, the survey found that 21 percent never checked their blood glucose.

Regular and frequent blood glucose testing helps treating clinicians evaluate the effectiveness of a patient's diabetes treatment plan. Healthcare providers can use the test results to made adjustments to medications, meal plans, and exercise regimens.

Sources: Analytical Chemistry, Mayo Clinic, American Diabetes Association

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