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MedMira Inc. is a biotechnology company that researches, develops, manufactures, and commercializes rapid diagnostics... read more Featured Products: More products

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Quick, Affordable Finger-Prick Test Diagnoses Common STI in Five Minutes

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 28 Mar 2023
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Image: The cartridge for the new point-of-care diagnostic test (Photo courtesy of WSU)
Image: The cartridge for the new point-of-care diagnostic test (Photo courtesy of WSU)

Trichomonas vaginalis, commonly referred to as trich, is a sexually transmitted infection that is highly prevalent but often overlooked. Despite being more prevalent than chlamydia or gonorrhea, around 70% of those infected with trich show no symptoms. Nevertheless, even asymptomatic cases of trich are linked to various negative health outcomes, such as increased vulnerability to HIV, prostate cancer in men, and infertility and pregnancy complications in women. Fortunately, trich can be easily treated with the drug metronidazole, provided that it is properly diagnosed. However, trich is frequently only diagnosed when symptoms manifest, including genital itchiness and burning sensation during urination. The current testing methods used to diagnose trich are primarily geared toward women and involve a vaginal swab. These tests require specialized equipment and trained personnel and may take time to generate results. Recently approved alternative methods by the Food and Drug Administration have similar limitations.

Researchers at Washington State University (Pullman, WA, USA) have developed a finger-prick test for diagnosing trich that is both affordable and fast. The test can deliver results in just five minutes and can be produced for under USD 20. To conduct the test, the researchers utilized MedMira Inc.’s (Halifax, NS, Canada) diagnostic platform which detects the antibody to the target protein in a drop of blood. Specifically, the test is designed to identify the antibody specific to trich, which is produced by both men and women when they are infected. The researchers had previously discovered this biomarker, an alpha-actinin protein called ACT::SOE3 unique to the organism, in an earlier study.

The test results for trich are displayed in a window similar to COVID-19 and pregnancy tests, with a dot appearing if the antibody is present, indicating infection. The point-of-care diagnostic test will enable immediate treatment and cure for those who test positive, and does not require specialized equipment or training to administer. In developing the test, the researchers aimed to meet the World Health Organization's "ASSURED" standards for disease detection, which require a test to be affordable, sensitive, specific, user-friendly, rapid, robust, equipment-free, and deliverable to end-users. Since trich is a global problem, with an estimated 156 million new cases reported annually, the researchers hope their test can be utilized in many low-resource countries, particularly in places like Africa, where trich is suspected to contribute to the spread of HIV.

“We know a lot about the biology of this organism,” said John Alderete, WSU researcher and the study’s lead author who has been working for years to improve testing for trich and make it more accessible. “There probably will never be a vaccine for trich simply because the organism is well equipped to evade our immune responses. But I’d argue we don’t need a vaccine. We just need to diagnose people, and once diagnosed, they can be cured.”

Related Links:
Washington State University

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