Novel Low-Cost Diagnostic Tools

Examples of folding paper diagnostic tools

Point of care testing is fundamental in delivering health and economic sustainability in the Global South. This team is working to improve a novel very low cost paper diagnostic method that is able to quantify malaria and schistosomiasis in a patient sample in a multiplexed assay. The improved platform will allow the measurement of several diseases at the same time, thereby increasing the efficiency of healthcare provision in often hard to reach settings, as well as establishing the species of the infectious agent (e.g. malaria), which will provide actionable information to healthcare professionals, where drugs have different levels of activity for different species, thus helping in reducing the potential emergence/increase of drug resistance.

Previous work by this group has already demonstrated the potential for these low cost assays as being both sensitive and specific and we now wish to develop new engineering approaches to improve their performance (in terms of their speed and ease of use) and evidence their impact so that they can find widespread application in both rural and urban environments in Uganda and Sierra Leone, and other endemic countries. As the assays are sensitive and quantitative, they have the potential to be used not only in the treatment of individuals, but also in eradication programmes, such as those advocated by the London 2020 accord, enabling the surveillance of disease re/emergence.

In addition to the technical elements of the diagnostic tool, this project will explore the cultural, financial, and logistical elements of using such device in the pursuit of disease eradication. Including public engagement, capacity strengthening, and business development scenarios, this multi-disciplinary project aims to identify not only how this diagnostic test can be improved, but also the myriad of factors affecting its deployment for effective use in challenging clinical conditions.

First published: 21 January 2021