Gold Leaf Could Potentially Help Protect People From Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Craftsmen and artists use gold leaf to create all kinds of clothing, art, and even food. However, scientists have now discovered that this precious metal can be used for something else. What is this other use? Well, they’ve found that it can help stop the spread of STDs.

Boston-based researchers say gold leaf electrodes can detect the deadly human papillomavirus (or HPV). Paired with a particular gene-editing technique, the researchers could accurately and definitively detect sexually transmitted infections in patients’ swabs. 80% of all HIV and HPV cases are found in some of the most impoverished regions of the globe, like South America and Africa. This new test will cost you less than $3, which is 30x less than the other more conventional methods.

Boston University’s Professor Catherine Klapperich, a corresponding author, says how an early diagnosis is vital for managing a sexually transmitted infection like HIV when she wrote in the ACS Central Science journal. She further stated how HPV causes almost 90% of all cervical cancer worldwide.  

How to build STD sensor using simple household items 

The researchers assembled their STI sensor using nothing but a razor blade, a stencil, an adhesive, and a 24k gold leaf sheet. Amplified DNA strands tagged with dye were attached to the surface. There’s a protein that has the ability to “snip” genes, and this is what the virus triggers, which, in turn, changes the electrochemical signal.

Study authors further claimed that this device could generally be able to detect all kinds of infection, including the coronavirus if adapted appropriately. Developing countries usually don’t have the money, personnel, or facilities to conduct common PCR and antibody test themselves. This could be the solution they’ve all been waiting for.

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