Scottish university develops simpler and faster test to diagnose deadly virus

0
191

A TEST, developed by researchers at a Scottish university, is helping to simplify the identification of hepatitis C cases.

Delivering results with an accuracy of 98%, the test is creating new possibilities for fast and affordable diagnoses.

Biomedical engineers at Glasgow University are behind the advancement, designing an origami-like lateral flow test.

Test speeds up and simplifies hepatitis c diagnsosis - Research News
The new testing system is faster than existing laboratory methods and has the potential to be used in the field. Photo by Testalize.me on Unsplash

Detecting whether the deadly virus is present within half an hour, results are indicated with lines on a strip, in a similar manner to Covid-19 or pregnancy tests.

At present, hepatitis C is usually diagnosed via a blood test, conducted under laboratory conditions, which takes longer to return a result and is not always possible in lower income countries.

This new, simpler system open up potential for faster diagnosis, which can be conducted in the field, using a small blood sample taken from a finger prick.

Using folded wax paper, the sample is moved to three small chambers in a cartridge, where a machine conducts loop-mediated isothermal amplification to identify the presence of hepatitis C RNA.

Professor Jonathan Cooper of Glasgow University’s James Watt School of Engineering, said: “The World Health Organisation has published guidelines for the kinds of rapid, accurate diagnostic tests which could help tackle infectious diseases around the world, including hepatitis C.

“Our malaria diagnosis system was a response to that call for action.

“While that tested patients’ blood for the presence of the DNA of Plasmodium falciparum, the mosquito-borne parasitic species which causes malaria, we were confident that it could be adapted for other purposes.

“We’re pleased to have been able to work with our colleagues at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research to develop this system, which tests for the presence of hepatitis C RNA.

“The Centre is home to some of the world’s leading virologists and it’s been great to have their input and guidance through the development process.”

Many of the 400,000 people dying each year from the virus could be saved by the faster and simpler testing, providing earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Left undiagnosed, the virus can lead to cirrhosis or cancer, primarily damaging the liver, with an estimated 80% of cases unaware of their infection until such complications begin.

Professor Emma Thomson, from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, said: “This is a really promising development for the rapid diagnosis of viral hepatitis C, which the WHO is aiming to eliminate by 2030.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly badly affected by the virus, so a portable, fast test like this one could help a great deal in identifying infection and providing treatment.

“One of the areas of focus for my research group is characterising the diversity of strains of hepatitis C in Africa, so I was glad to partner with my biomedical engineer colleagues to provide samples and help to make the test more suitable for use in a wide range of settings.”

Following successful tests of their prototype, field trials in Sub-Saharan Africa are due to commence next year.