• 08-01-2009: DailyMail UK

    08-01-2009-DailyMail UK

    A dummy's guide to self-testing kits


    With the launch of an over-the-counter paternity DNA test, it seems it is possible to check for nearly anything in the privacy of your own home. Indeed, we now spend an estimated £100million on these kits each year.

    Mitesh Soma, founder of www.chemistdirect.co.uk, confirms: 'We have seen home-testing kits for conditions such as chlamydia and cholesterol increase in popularity over the past 18 months. But while they can provide a useful barometer, they should never become the sole alternative to seeing your GP if worried about a condition.'

    Here, we check out eight of the most popular tests and ask experts to evaluate them.


    From www.homehealth-uk.com; £5.99.

    Rating: 3 out of 5

    What it does: Detects the presence of protein and blood in the urine.

    How it works: The tester collects a urine sample and then dips a reactive strip in for one second. The strip shows whether there is any creatinine and protein. A trace of protein is normal but any more indicates the kidneys are not filtering waste fluids correctly. If no creatinine shows up, your kidneys are not working.

    Expert view: Boots' Angela Chalmers says: 'If people are worried about being tired and having constant urine infections then these can be a good idea.'


    £3.99; www.chemistdirect.co.uk

    Rating: 3 out of 5

    What it does: Measures cholesterol levels.

    How it works: Chemicals react with a drop of blood placed on a pad on the back of a test strip producing a colour. This can be related to the cholesterol concentration in the blood by comparison with a supplied colour chart.

    Expert view: 'These are useful up to a point,' says Ellen Mason, of the British Heart Foundation. 'If people get a high result, it should drive the tester to their GP. But a high cholesterol level should not be considered in isolation when trying to work out whether a patient is at risk of heart disease, and a low result is no guarantee of heart health.'


    Available from Boots; £11.74

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    What it does: Checks for bleeding in the bowel, indicating bowel cancer, ulcers, inflammation of the large bowel, irritation of the digestive system, anal fissure, haemorrhoids and non-cancerous growths.

    How it works: The test uses a stick which is pushed into a stool sample. It is then placed into a container of solution, shaken and dripped on to the test cassette where a chemical reaction to detect haemoglobin, a red pigment present in blood, takes place.

    Expert view: 'This is a decent test used by the Government to screen over-60s,' says Dr Anthony Ellis, consultant gastroenterologist at Spire Liverpool and Royal Liverpool University hospitals. 'But it can miss one in three bowel cancers, as some tumours bleed intermittently.' Anyone with symptoms should see their GP.


    Available from branches of Boots; £11.99

    Rating: 1 out of 5

    What it does: Checks for high sugar levels, a possible early indication of diabetes.

    How it works: A blood sample changes colour on a test strip which can be compared to a colour chart; the darker the colour, the higher the concentration of sugar in the bloodstream.

    Expert view: Libby Dowling, of Diabetes UK, says: 'The results might not be accurate as individual blood/sugar levels vary and people might be falsely reassured by a negative reading. And getting a positive diagnosis through self-testing can only increase anxiety if someone does not have access to advice provided by a professional.'


    £59; www.testcountry.co.uk

    Rating: 2 out of 5

    What it does: hair drug testing kit , Tests for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamine, methamphetamine, Ecstasy and phencyclidine (PCP).

    How it works: Drug molecules carried in the bloodstream become embedded in hair follicles, where they may remain for 90 days. Hair is fed by the bloodstream, so any drugs will show up. A long thin strip of hair is cut, and then sent in a special foil holder to the company's lab.

    Expert view: Harry Walker, of Turning Point, the social care organisation, says: 'We would not recommend any parents using this without the agreement of the youngster involved. If a child feels their parents no longer trust them, they are less likely to seek the help and support they may need. '


    www.homehealth-uk.com; three for £4.48

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    What it does: Detects the presence of alcohol in saliva and gives an estimation of blood alcohol levels.

    How it works: The concentration of alcohol in saliva is comparable to that of blood; it's a more sensitive testing medium than breath. The specimen is put in a container and a test pad dropped in. After two minutes, if the colour hasn't changed, then the blood alcohol content (BAC) is less than 0.02 per cent. But a distinct colour indicates a positive result of 0.02 per cent or higher.

    Expert view: Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers says: 'If you've been drinking late into the night, these would let you know if you are safe to drive the next morning – so they can be helpful. But do not let them replace common sense.'


    Available from Boots; £24.47

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    What it does: Tests for chlamydia, the UK's most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection, thought to affect one in ten sexually active adults. Left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, testicular discomfort and infertility.

    How it works: A urine sample is sent for analysis using the Nucleic Acid Amplification Technique test. The result returns in seven days.

    Expert view: Sexual health expert and GP Dr Catherine Hood says: 'Clamelle is useful for those too busy to see their GP and couples considering starting a family who want to be sure they are infection-free. Under-25s can be tested free via the National Chlamydia Screening Programme.'


    From pharmacies or www.ibdna.com; £30 for kit, plus £119 for analysis

    Rating: 3 out of 5

    What it does: Establishes paternal link between an alleged father and a child, without the need to test the mother.

    How it works: User collects swabs that have been wiped inside mouth of any child or adult to be tested and sends to laboratory. Cheek cell samples are treated to release the DNA coding from the cells. Results can be available in four days.

    Expert view: Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, says the easy availability of the test raises deep concerns. 'One problem with genetic testing is that the information is wheeled out in a moral vacuum. The discovery that a child isn't related to their father can have a huge impact on that child.'


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