6 min Strep A test suitable for remote settings

Thursday, 10 September, 2020

6 min Strep A test suitable for remote settings

Researchers from Perth’s Telethon Kids Institute have demonstrated that rapid, molecular point-of-care tests can be used in remote settings to accurately detect the presence of Strep A bacterium in just six minutes. Published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, their study confirms that children at risk of potentially life-threatening Strep A infections no longer have to wait five days for treatment.

Found in the throat and on the skin, Strep A infections are often responsible for sore throats and painful skin infections, which can lead to irreversible and potentially deadly heart and kidney damage if left untreated. Traditional, culture-based laboratory testing methods taking several days to return a result, which can be a problem when it comes to cases in remote settings.

“The longer the results take, the greater the opportunity for complications to develop and bacteria to spread throughout the community, and this means we urgently need testing methods that provide accurate information as soon as possible,” said Dr Janessa Pickering, from the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines & Infectious Diseases at the Telethon Kids Institute.

“In this study, we were able to evaluate the performance of Strep A point-of-care tests in remote settings for the first time by screening 120 children from two schools in the north-west of Western Australia.

“The tests gave us extremely quick results, allowing us to identify on the spot that 72% of children with sore throat symptoms had Strep A pharyngitis. As well as being quick and easy to administer, we found the tests were more sensitive than traditional testing methods.

“The ability to get such immediate results means children will be able to receive the urgent treatment they require, and could significantly reduce the spread of Strep A in populations at risk of serious complications.”

Associate Professor Asha Bowen, also from the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines & Infectious Diseases, said the results were highly relevant for the centre’s ongoing research within remote Aboriginal communities.

“Aboriginal Australians living remotely have some of the highest rates of rheumatic heart disease in the world, and these areas also face major issues around antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic shortages, so improved testing will make a big difference in advising appropriate medical treatment going forward,” Assoc Prof Bowen said.

“With COVID-19 point-of-care testing established in very remote communities as part of the Aboriginal community controlled health organisation-led response this year, there is now even greater potential to consider additional tests such as Strep A being made available where needed.”

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/kerriekerr

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