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Vinegar swab reveals cervical problems.

A simple, low-technology procedure may provide an inexpensive means for health officials in developing countries to diagnose precancerous cervical lesions, U.S. and Zimbabwean researchers report in the March 13 LANCET.

Six nurse-midwives screened 2,144 women attending clinics in Zimbabwe. They checked for cervical lesions by first taking a Pap smear--a scraping of cells that are analyzed in a lab for abnormal growth. Afterward, they swabbed each woman's cervix with a mild vinegar solution and observed the tissue with a flashlight. The nurse-midwives recorded whether any cervical tissue turned white when exposed to the vinegar, a reaction that can signal abnormal cell growth.

The researchers then took cells for a biopsy or gave the women a colposcopy examination, in which the cervix is closely inspected under magnification. These techniques indicated that 77 percent of the vinegar tests showing signs of abnormal cells were accurate, whereas only 44 percent of the positive Pap smears were correct, says study coauthor Lynne Gaffikin of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The poor Pap-smear results may have stemmed from flaws in either sample collection or laboratory evaluation, she says.

In screening for cervical cancer, the standard in industrialized countries is a Pap smear and, if indicated, colposcopy. Such services don't reach many rural people in developing countries, Gaffikin says. The vinegar-swab and naked-eye inspection by a nurse "provides great coverage in not as many steps" as the other techniques, she concludes.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 3, 1999
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