Studies describe new, highly accurate malaria test
The test, which is called loop-mediated isothermal amplification or LAMP, was developed by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, in collaboration with the London-based Hospital for Tropical Diseases, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Japan-based Eiken Chemical Company. Previously, the most accurate malaria detection was the polymerase chain reaction, which is only available in the laboratory. LAMP achieves similarly accurate results but can be done without sophisticated equipment in the field.
"The new ability to detect these hidden malaria infections in the field opens exciting new possibilities for malaria elimination programs, and has potential to improve screening of high-risk groups such as pregnant women," David Bell, the head of the Malaria and Acute Febrile Syndrome Program at FIND, said. "Its simplicity compared to other highly sensitive methods also makes it possible for developing country programs to be more independent of outside support for disease screening. The technology is already having an impact in management of sleeping sickness in Africa; there is potential for rapidly improving the detection of many other diseases without the need for continuing, high cost external support."
Malaria remains a significant public health problems in tropical and sub-tropical areas and new diagnostic methods could improve the chances of regional elimination.
"Patterns of malaria disease in Africa and elsewhere across the tropics are becoming much less predictable, and control of malaria needs an appropriate test to identify infected individuals, who often do not have any symptoms, in the populations at risk," Colin Sutherland, the head of the Department of Immunology and Infection at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said. "We have begun using LAMP as a new tool for identifying 'hot spots' of malaria infections which can be mopped up quickly through a combination of drug treatment, house spraying and distribution of bed-nets. LAMP will thus potentially contribute to saving many families and communities from the blight of malaria. It is a blight on communities because this disease keeps children from succeeding at school, prevents adults from growing food and working, holds back regional economies and exacts an annual death toll in the hundreds of thousands."
LAMP could also be used to monitor for antimalarial drug resistance, screen in vaccine trials and test for malaria during pregnancy. Results from LAMP are available just one hour after a sample is processed.
FIND announced the publication of the studies on Friday.