Origami diagnostic tests offer faster, more cost-effective, in-field malaria and STI detection

UofG researchers have developed a unique paper-microfluidic ‘origami’ diagnostic platform that uses lateral flow to bring rapid and accurate molecular testing to low-resource rural areas in Uganda.

The research

Research at UofG led by Professor Jonathan Cooper and Dr Julien Reboud led to the development of low-cost, integrated DNA sensors that test for multiple DNA sequences. The main advantage of using DNA-based testing is that it differentiates between current and historical infections, whilst simultaneously enabling the identification of species of pathogens, needed for informing treatment and care pathways.

The research produced the origami device, which has been used to detect the different strains of malaria parasite, schistosomes (a parasitic worm), bacteria (causing sepsis) in humans and sexually transmitted infections in animals. The goal of this work was to deliver health and economic sustainability in the Global South by enabling low-cost, effective and accurate diagnosis of infectious diseases, namely malaria and schistosomiasis.

The impact

Malaria and other infectious diseases remain a global health priority. Low-cost rapid diagnostic tests can help determine the prevalence of infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries, informing treatment and care pathways in community settings. The UofG led research addresses the urgent emerging challenge of lack and accuracy of current testing resources.

The unique format of the device enables the diagnosis of different diseases with just one test device, providing increased resources for use in Uganda. UofG researchers worked with healthcare technicians to validate the strip-based sensor on the device, ensuring easy-to-read results. The simplicity of the device ensures that non-expert technicians and healthcare workers in Uganda can test and diagnose individuals with ease.

The new, low-cost diagnostic technology has been trialled in the Tororo, Mayuge and Apac regions of Uganda. As a result of the device created at UofG and its impact in Tororo, a new Ugandan public health initiative has been created. The initiative has changed understanding and policy among national and regional healthcare and education authorities with regard to disease control in Uganda.