Thursday, September 27, 2007

Clever appropriate technology

Clever appropriate technology : "In 2000, she helped diagnose an outbreak of dengue fever in Paraguay using the tools of molecular biology and working with the Ministry of Health. “In Paraguay they were like, ‘help!’” she recounted. “The CDC was busy, Brazil was busy, so they said, ‘Eva, can you come help us?’” Using molecular diagnostics, she and the Paraguayan team were able to determine that the dengue strains were coming in from Brazil via the border bus stations. The Ministry of Health was then able to target interventions to the specific locales where the epidemic was entering the country and, by acting quickly, was able to keep it from spreading. Discussing her work in Bolivia , she described the laboratory equipment improvised by her colleagues there. In order to make a centrifuge, they fused faucet widgets with a blender to create the “Blenderfuge.” They also took an old record player and transferred the circular motion to horizontal motion in order to make a lab shaker. These researchers were inspired by a concept that she used at the onset of her career. She wrote a manual about how to carry out polymerase chain reactions — the fundamental tool of molecular biology — in something akin to coffee cans. “What you do in this country is buy a $10,000 machine."

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