New device detects deadly lung disease

July 24, 2014
The lateral-flow device (LFD) detects invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, a notoriously difficult to diagnose disease caused by the fungus Aspergillus. Credit: University of Exeter

A scientist from the University of Exeter has developed a simple, cheap and highly accurate device for diagnosing a frequently fatal lung disease which attacks immune deficient individuals such as cancer patients and bone marrow transplant recipients.

The lateral-flow device (LFD), created by Professor Chris Thornton, detects invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, a notoriously difficult to diagnose disease caused by the fungus Aspergillus.

Invasive aspergillosis is a leading cause of death in and patients, accounting for more than 200,000 life-threatening infections each year, with an associated mortality rate of up to 90%.

The new device – which resembles a pregnancy test but uses a small blood sample – will cost health authorities just £10 per test and will fit into routine hospital practices. It will potentially reduce the high rates of mortality and morbidity associated with the disease and enable better use of costly and toxic antifungal drugs.

Professor Thornton, of Biosciences, said: "Individuals with invasive are often suffering from complex medical conditions and the symptoms, which include raised temperature, breathlessness, chest pain and fatigue, could be attributable to a number of other conditions. At present, it can take several days to identify the disease correctly due to the lack of accurate diagnostic tests, and the patient's health deteriorates significantly in the absence of appropriate treatment.

"The low cost, speed, ease-of-use and compatibility of the new device with standard hospital procedures means that the disease can be quickly and accurately monitored at the point-of-care using a simple blood test or with fluids collected during lung biopsy."

Professor Thornton and colleagues have published a number of clinical studies with hospitals in London, Germany, Austria and elsewhere in mainland Europe.

There is also an ongoing trial with leukaemia patients at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital under the care of Consultant Haematologist Dr Paul Kerr. He said: "We at the Exeter Leukaemia Unit are very proud to work with Dr Thornton and his team on this project; diagnosing this life-threatening infection is very difficult, and can involve either subjecting the patient to unpleasant and potentially dangerous investigations, or can result in the use of expensive and toxic medication that may not always be needed. It is very exciting to think that a simple laboratory test may allow us to greatly simplify this process in the future."

With financial support from the University and Angel funders, a spin-out company called ISCA Diagnostics Ltd was established to enable commercialisation of the test. Global marketing and distribution of the device is delivered through ISCA's partner company OLM Medical.

The lateral flow device will be being used in hospitals around the world from August. The test uses a highly specific monoclonal antibody to detect a diagnostic marker of active Aspergillus infection, meaning that doctors can more precisely identify patients developing the disease.

This success is a visible example of how University bench-to-bedside Research & Development can deliver commercial impact through academic, industry and private investor partnerships.

The work has received funding from the US National Institutes of Health, HEIF, private investors, and a global pharmaceuticals company.

Professor Thornton is a fungal immunologist with a specialist interest in hybridoma technology and immunodiagnostics. His recent research has concentrated on human infections by opportunistic fungal pathogens and their rapid detection using monoclonal antibodies.

Explore further: Manchester researchers world first in complex genetics testing

Related Stories

Manchester researchers world first in complex genetics testing

February 12, 2014
A grandfather-of-three from Tameside is helping University of Manchester researchers become the first in the world to assess all the genetic links with Chronic Pulmonary Aspergillosis (CPA) - a debilitating fungal lung infection ...

Baker's yeast protects against fatal infections

August 10, 2011
Injecting mice with simple baker's yeast protects against the fatal fungal infection, aspergillosis, according to research published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology. The work could lead to the development of a human ...

Researchers developing rapid new detection systems for deadly blood infection

September 14, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at the University of Liverpool are a step closer to providing clinicians with a bedside test for the early diagnosis of the fatal blood infection, sepsis. 

Ice pops interfered with hospital patient's lab tests: report

July 3, 2013
(HealthDay)—Physicians should be aware that frozen ice pops—a common treat in hospitals—can fool tests designed to detect a fungal infection that threatens people with an weakened immune system, researchers report.

Study shows restored immunity for cancer-related fungal infections

July 8, 2014
Sleeping Beauty and fungal infections – not two items one would normally associate together, but for immunocompromised cancer patients they may prove to be a helpful combination.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.