How many times in the past ten years do you believe you’ve had a dose of the flu? Were you actually tested for evidence of the influenza virus in your system?
Statistics indicate that, on average, adults over the age of 30 only contract the influenza virus twice in a decade – but far more frequently (self) misdiagnose a cold virus (commonly rhinovirus or coronavirus) as being the flu.
Accurately diagnosing the flu virus through testing is often considered too slow and cumbersome by many primary-care physicians, with current rapid-diagnosis pathology tests requiring up to 48 hours.
To be effective in reducing the severity of the viral infection, anti-viral medications must be started within 48 hours of symptom onset, which is inhibited by the current diagnostic methods and timelines.
Nuclear scientists at ANSTO are working with an international team of university researchers and companies to help develop a new platform capable rapid diagnosis.
The team have developed a diagnostic platform that is capable of delivering rapid diagnosis of influenza A, B and C strains, in as little as 5 minutes.
The team is led by Professor Jeremy Lakey from the Newcastle University in the UK, together with Orla Protein Technologies Ltd., OJ Bio Ltd., and ANSTO researchers Dr Anton Le Brun and Dr Stephen Holt.
Dr Le Brun, Research Fellow at ANSTO’s Bragg Institute said:
What we are working towards is a platform that can be coupled to a portable electronic device, to provide a rapid and accurate diagnosis of influenza
The rapid diagnosis technology combines specialist protein biomarkers with advanced electronics in the form of a small biochip developed by the UK-based OJ Bio.
When a patient sample is applied to the biochip, the presence of a disease antigen is translated into an electronic signal which is converted into a test result and displayed on a smartphone app or PC.
“If physicians had a tool of this nature available during outbreaks of severe strains, they would have the ability to confidently and quickly prescribe anti-virals to those who need them,” said Dr Le Brun.
Our lab work, which involves using nuclear research instruments, has so far shown us how to assemble the molecular platforms necessary to create such a device, and in principle how it works. Our next steps are to convert our laboratory results into an accessible and reusable way for GPs to quickly test patients for evidence of the influenza virus as part of their treatment process. GPs have had access to rapid blood sugar testing devices to help in the management of diabetes for many years. Our aim is to make diagnosis and management of influenza just as simple a process
The development of a portable rapid diagnostics device, will significantly improve the treatment outcomes, and decrease complications suffered by those unlucky enough to contract the virus.
For more information about ANSTO and its research, go to www.ansto.gov.au