Lab-on-a-strip test for dengue fever developed

Friday, 22 April, 2022

Lab-on-a-strip test for dengue fever developed

Biomedical technology researchers from the University of Reading have used a new diagnostic kit called Cygnus to detect dengue fever, with significantly improved rates over lateral flow testing (LFT) kits. The diagnostic test uses ‘lab on a strip’ technology, which performs 10 or more tests on a very small amount of liquid sample (such as blood, urine or saliva). It has been described in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The tests developed for the research were specifically developed to detect dengue fever, which affects an estimated 400 million cases each year. While most cases are mild, dengue infections can lead to significant complications and can be fatal. Dengue can be most severe in children and is a serious health challenge facing half the global population.

Working with academics and clinicians in Thailand, the team trialled the tests alongside already established alternatives and found the new tests showed 82% clinical sensitivity, beating lateral flow testing (74% sensitivity) and matching hospital-based lab diagnostics (83% sensitivity). At the same time, the devices make 10 measurements, allowing researchers to identify which of the four different dengue virus types caused the infection.

“The paper shows exciting potential for the use of the microfluidic lab-on-a-strip tests that can be used in conjunction with a smartphone and are more powerful than LFT testing in this case,” said Dr Sarah Needs, lead author of the paper. “As well as being cheap to produce, the lab-on-a-strip technology allows users to test many different targets at once in one single sample, so it could be useful to detect multiple diseases, not just one.”

“While some people might [have] only recently learned of the trade-offs between home versus lab testing following COVID-19, in many parts of the world rapid lateral flow tests are used for a range of illnesses including dengue,” said Dr Alexander Edwards, who co-created the lab-on-a-strip technology.

“With the Cygnus concept, we are tackling the biggest hurdle for home testing. How do you make something portable that can be cheaply mass produced while still matching laboratory test performance? By designing the microfluidic lab on a strip using mass-production melt-extrusion, it is possible to scale up production and produce hundreds of thousands of tests. By recording results with smartphones, which are becoming ubiquitous, we have designed something that could be revolutionary for health care.”

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