• RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

Low-cost device for quick gonorrhea diagnosis.

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Tza-Huei Wang, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in his microfluidics laboratory.Credit: WILL KIRK / JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

A test using a portable device and a phone app has the potential to improve the diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections, and allow for more rapid treatment.

Called PROMPT (Portable, Rapid, On-Catridge, Magnetofluid purification and Testing platform), the device runs on a simple five-volt battery and includes thermoplastic cartridges. Tested at sexual health clinics in Kampala, Ugandaand Baltimore, United States, PROMPOT was developed by researchers from the Institute for Nano-Biotechnology at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering and Ugandan Infectious Disease Institute, Makerere University. The team's results appeared in Science Translational medicine.

The app can diagnose gonorrhea in less than 15 minutes and deliver results while the patient is still in the clinic. It correctly detect the most common strain in about 97% of cases and was 100% accurate at determining whether a particular strain will respond to frontline antibiotics, and save patients from unknowingly spreading their infections.

More than 87 million people around the world are infected with gonorrhea, whose resistance to antibiotics is increasing. PROMPT "ensures that patients are diagnosed on the spot, and treatment can begin immediately, improving clinical outcomes. This will be especially valuable in low-resource settings, where well-equipped laboratories are not always accessible to every patient,” says team leader, Tza-Huei Wang, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Institute for Nano Biotechnology at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.

Andrew Kambugu, the Executive Director at the Uganda Infectious Disease Institute (IDI), Makerere University, where the study was based, says “the technology is potentially a game-changer in timely diagnosis and prevention of antibiotic resistant Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).”

References

  1. 1.

    Trick et al., Sci. Transl. Med. 13, eabf6356 (2021)

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

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