Creative Commons-licensed test for African sleeping sickness

Eric sez, "Australian scientists developed a cheap blood test for African sleeping sickness and gave it away under a Creative Commons license."
Zablon Njiru and Andrew Thompson of Murdoch University led a team that developed the elegantly simple way to check for trypanosomes -- protozoan parasites that are sometimes carried by tsetse flies.

To catch an infection in the earliest stages, when it is most treatable, technicians must look for a very small number of parasites in a sea of body fluids. That is not an easy thing to do, but there is a trick to make it easier: By mixing the liquid sample with a cocktail of molecules that can copy trypanosome DNA, they can make the serum resistance associated gene, a signpost of the disease, stand out -- transforming each test into a manageable task.

Instead of using the polymerase chain reaction, which amplifies the microbe DNA with the aid of an expensive instrument called a thermocycler, the researchers employed another gene multiplying technique called loop-mediated isothermal amplification. It requires little more than a warm water bath and a few chemicals. After that procedure, which takes less than a half hour, the scientists can simply add some SYBR green dye and watch the brew change color if it contains a boatload of duplicated genetic material from the pathogen.

Link (Thanks, Eric!)


  1. Whatever happened to just releasing things with no strings attached ?

    I can understand a song, book,or movie, but does a test for a disease really benefit from a Creative Commons licence ?

    Didn’t altruistic people just give these things away for free in the past?

    After reading the text, it seems the paper is what is released under Creative Commons, not the test.

  2. For people wondering which CC license: Distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

    This is the least restrictive license. Bravo.

  3. Personally, I’ve always liked the zlib license. It’s probably even less restrictive than Creative Commons (although it doesn’t have the backing of a big organization)

    Its terms are roughly as follows:
    You may do whatever the heck you want with [product] as long as:
    1) We get credit if you modify and redistribute.
    2) You don’t sue us. We’re not liable.

  4. That’s fantastasmdfv skl m c//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

  5. I was going to ask if IWOOD had been playing too much forumwarz lately but now I think I see what he did there. Insert appropriate owl macro here.

  6. Hmmm … The test itself carries no license. The paper describing the test has been released CC (as are most articles under the Public Library of Science, as well as Biomed Central).

    In theory I think they could have patented the test, but now that it’s published I think they’ve invalidated that option (probably deliberately).

    It’s really cool, though that Plos do a “Journal of Neglected Tropical Diseases”. Having seen a few graphs showing how much research goes into cancer and heart disease (the main killers of developed nation citizens) versus research into diseases that are pandemic in developing nations, my faith in the overall morality of our species isn’t very high.

    Incidentally, what is even cooler about this is the simplicity of the reagents and equipment required. I strongly suspect they could mass produce these for under US$1 per test.

  7. There must be some kind of licensing, otherwise somebody will try to take it, patent it and sue your ass.

    There is a PLOS-like journal about neglected diseases caused by trypanosomatids, this is, Sleeping disease, Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis:

  8. How exactly do you provide attribution for a medical procedure? For that matter can a technique for doing something (medical or otherwise) even be copyrighted in the first place?

    I think you may mean that the article describing the procedure was published under a CC license.

  9. PROM77
    To answer your quest – No, it can not be copyrighted. The question you want to ask would be “Can a technique for doing something (medical or otherwise) even be patented in the first place?”

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