By: Melody Brandon
JOHANNESBURG (Xinhua) — A team of South African students from the University of The Witwatersrand (WITS) have used “biological Lego” to develop a tool that is hoped to detect cervical cancer.
According to the South African department of Health, cancer of the cervix is the second most common form of cancer amongst South African women. Approximately one in every 41 women will in their lifetime, develop this form of cancer.
Papanicolaou smears (pap smears) where a swab is taken of the cervical area, to detect cervical abnormalities is currently the best form of secondary prevention.
Population-based screening programmes, even in countries where screening is less than perfect, has significantly decreased the incidence of cervical cancer in large parts of the world.
However, there are few examples of screening programmes in less-developed countries. The success of screening programmes is dependant on good attendance rates by women at high risk.
With concerns over the risk of cervical cancer rising, it is hoped that the research by the six honors students at WITS University will, in the future, help detect the disease before it is too late.
The Johannesburg-based students are the first African students to have entered a competition run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States with an idea that could help in the early detection of cervical cancer.
The group is working on creating bacteria that can be introduced into the vagina, which will turn purple when exposed to Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is a precursor to cervical cancer.
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