This team successfully won a Discovery Award seed-funding grant to help further develop their ideas for their Longitude Prize application and create a diagnostic test that helps solve the problem of global antibiotic resistance. Below we have asked them to explain their test and motivation for applying.
Please explain your test.
To beat antibiotic resistance it is very important to give the right antibiotics to a patient with an infection or disease. To know which antibiotics are right for a particular infection, a doctor must know which bacteria is causing it. Normally, a blood sample will be tested in a laboratory, but we want to develop a small testing device that can easily and rapidly tell a doctor what is causing the infection. The test will also be helpful in developing countries, such as Burkina Faso, were they are limited by money and equipment.
Please share a more detailed description of this work from a medical professional’s perspective.
We want to improve the diagnosis of febrile diseases (diseases with uncertain causes) in sub-Sahara Africa. We have a research focus on Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world with a lot of health problems. Our project aims to develop a diagnostic tool that can identify bacterial infections, preferably at point-of-care with the patient. This will help clinicians make the right treatment decisions, avoid the use of unneeded antibiotics and will, hence, contribute to the containment of drug resistance.
Why did you apply and what will the Discovery Award funding be used for in your work?
We are exploiting molecular biology as the basis for appropriate diagnosis. However, molecular diagnostics are often difficult to implement in resource-limited settings due to technical requirements, costs, need for constant electricity and the training of operators. With the Discovery Award we want to transform our diagnostic platform for certain febrile illnesses to a tool that can be deployed at point-of-care.
What difference will your work make in the long term with regards to antimicrobial diagnostics?
Too often febrile diseases are treated with inappropriate drugs. For example, in Burkina Faso many fever cases are treated as if they are malaria. However, we know that this disease is declining, but still a lot of febrile children are being treated. These children are often given antibiotics, whereas the actual cause of disease is not known. This unguided use of antibiotics is the road towards drug resistance! We expect that by improving the diagnosis of febrile illnesses, we can better treat patients with drugs that are effective.
If there is a design for a prototype, please describe it and how it will work.
Our diagnostic platform has a simple read-out system (no need for gel systems or computers) and does not require extensive sample preparation, such as complicated DNA extraction. Several diseases can be diagnosed at one time and the test has an internal amplification control that assesses whether the test was carried out correctly. At present the platform runs on standard PCR machines. With this award we want to transform this system to point-of-care by using hand-held, solar powered PCR devices.
Who is on your team?
Dr. Henk Schallig, Senior Scientist
Dr. Petra Mens
Francois Kiemde MSc
Achille Bonko MSc
Dr. Halidou Tinto
If you are interested in collaborating with this team, please email us.