Emerging technologies for point-of-care diagnosis of soil-transmitted helminth infections

Soni SK1, Ravindran VB1, Traub R2 and Ball AS1

  1. School of Science, RMIT University, Melbourne.
  2. Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, Melbourne University, Melbourne.

Parasitic worms (helminths) cause some of the most neglected tropical diseases. They infect ~ 1 billion people globally and contribute substantially to poor physical and cognitive development in children, and poor maternal birth outcomes. No commercial vaccines are available and treatment relies heavily on only a small number of drugs. Because drug resistance is a major threat, there is an urgent need to develop new and innovative methods of diagnosis to contribute toward achieving the Millennium Goals of the London Declaration. Currently, coproscopic diagnostic methods such as Kato Katz thick smear is performed, however this technique is antiquated and its sensitivity is very poor. Although PCR-based methods are an alternative to coproscopy, constraints relate to the transport of samples to a central laboratory, high cost and inability to estimate infection intensity. Therefore, a need for radically new and innovative tools is essential for the specific diagnosis of helminths. Here, we coupled propidium monoazide with isothermal amplification to effectively quantify the viability of Ascaris and Trichuris eggs. Also, we distinguished 3 different helminth ova based on surface acoustic wave drive microfluidics. Furthermore a highly selective and sensitive lateral flow based strip assay (Microbial Detection Assay Strips-MIDAS) also has been developed, that can detect 2 genera of STHs on 1 strip in 30 min. These studies will be validated further on a point-of-care basis to support mass treatment programs in the field.