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Juanita High School students create diagnostic test for tuberculosis

The simple, painless TB test is similar to a pregnancy test, according to creators Ria Mohan and Pragnya Gudipati.

KIRKLAND, Wash. — A couple of juniors from Juanita High School in Kirkland are raising awareness and support for an infectious disease that’s been underfunded and overshadowed by COVID-19. 

Ria Mohan and Pragnya Gudipati are the dynamic duo behind “Tuberculosticks.” Their innovative diagnostic concept aims to make diagnosing tuberculosis more accessible and more affordable to people around the world.

Tuberculosis is an infectious lung disease that claims over 3,000 lives a day and the students say it shouldn’t matter where you live or what your income is to have access to a simple test. Their goal to is to raise awareness that roughly 18% of the world’s population is infected with TB and shouldn’t be overlooked due to the current pandemic. 

“Currently there isn’t a test for TB that’s simple, painless and safe so our focus was to create a diagnostic tool that could be used by anyone and without medical training,” Mohan said.

The young women developed a concept that works similarly to a pregnancy test where a user simply urinates on a stick. 

“That’s how we named it (Tuberculosticks,)” Mohan said.  

The idea has been several years in the making and has earned the duo several honors, including a win in the 2021 Changemaker Challenge that earned them $5,000 in grant funding. 

Tuberculosis may not feel as prevalent but TB impacts all 50 states and is responsible for 1.5 million deaths around the world each year. 

“It was the leading infectious disease cause of death for years and years before COVID-19 ever showed up,” said Dr. Cynthia Tschampl, a scientist and chair-elect at Stop TB USA, an organization dedicated to information and resources that aims to end TB.

The global effort to combat COVID and the race to produce vaccines is a sharp contrast to the status of tuberculosis. 

“The infrastructure and the funding have been so neglected that in a hundred years we only have one slightly effective vaccine that doesn’t do anything to protect adults from TB,” Tschampl said.

The Tuberculosticks team is working with Stop TB USA to host an information event on Feb. 9.

You can learn more and support the students efforts on Instagram @tuberculosticks.

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