Working with academics and clinicians in Thailand, the team from Reading University trialled the tests alongside already established alternatives, and found the new tests showed 82 per cent clinical sensitivity, beating lateral flow testing (74 per cent sensitivity) and matching hospital-based lab diagnostics (83 per cent sensitivity). These devices can make 10 measurements simultaneously, allowing the identification of the specific dengue virus that caused the infection. The team’s results are published inPLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Lead author Dr Sarah Needs, a postdoctoral research associate in microfluidic antimicrobial resistance testing at Reading University, said: “The paper shows exciting potential for the use of the microfluidic ‘lab on a strip’ tests that can used in conjunction with a smartphone and are more powerful than LFT testing in this case. 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.”
The new diagnostic test developed for the research uses ‘lab on a strip’ technology, which performs 10 or more tests from a very small amount of blood, urine or saliva.
The tests developed for the research were specifically developed to detect Dengue Fever, which affects an estimated 400m people each year. While most cases are mild, dengue infections can lead to complications and can be fatal. Dengue can be most severe in children and is a serious health challenge facing half the global population.
Dr Alexander Edwards, associate professor in biomedical technology at Reading University and co-creator of the lab on a strip technology, said: “While some people might 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.
“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 healthcare.”