In recent years, considerable effort has been given to providing universal access to medications for diseases afflicting the developing world. Increased access to anti-retroviral (ARV) therapies to treat HIV has been particularly successful, with millions of patients now receiving desperately needed medicines. Additionally, access to therapies for tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and other treatable diseases is increasing at an impressive rate. While increased access to therapies is encouraging, a number of these medications are known to exhibit substantial liver toxicity in patients, resulting in debilitating symptoms and even death in the most severe cases.
In the developed world, routine monitoring of liver function for patients on ARVs and many other medicines is the standard of care. Monitoring for liver toxicity in the developing world, however, is severely limited by expense and access to modern instrumentation. Because of these obstacles, many developing world patients receive minimal or no monitoring during treatment. DFA is addressing this need by developing a low-cost, patterned paper-based, liver enzyme diagnostic test that can provide an assessment of liver health from a single drop of fingerstick blood in about 15 minutes. DFA is currently preparing for clinical trials and should have a dramatic impact on patient care in the developing world.