Rapid diagnosis of invasive aspergillosis is important as the earlier treatment begins the better the eventual outcome. However early diagnosis is very problematic as amongst other things we breathe in Aspergillus and other fungal spores every day so an accurate test must be able to distinguish between those inactive spores (which are usually rapidly removed by our immune system) and actual invasive infection.
Existing techniques work well but this new test has several potential advantages:
- Very rapid - a drop of blood takes 15 mins to analyse
- Very convenient - the test can be carried out 'at point of care'
- Very cheap @ £10 per test
- Highly specific to Aspergillus (so other fungi will not confuse the result)
- Does not rely on the response of the (often immunocompromised) patient's immune system
A new lateral flow device has been invented by Prof Chris Thornton of Exeter University , UK, to accurately diagnose invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. The affordable device uses a highly specific monoclonal antibody which detects a diagnostic marker of Aspergillus infection and uses a small blood sample.
Aspergillosis is a notoriously difficult disease to diagnose - affecting many immunosuppressed individuals such as cancer patients, transplant or HIV patients. Invasive aspergillosis is a principle cause of death in acute leukaemia and bone marrow transplant patients.
The new device costs just £10 is rapid and the compatibility of the device with hospital procedures, means that detection of aspergillosis can be accurately monitored at the point of care using either a blood sample or fluids collected during lung biopsy.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.A further benefit is that this new device specifically detects growing (and thus invasive) Aspergillus so results will not be confused with inhaled or otherwise non-growing fungal material.
Clinical trials are ongoing and there is no large quantity of data to demonstrate the efficacy of this test in the clinic but the early signs are very promising.
This lateral flow device will be available for use in hospitals around the world from August 2014.