Irish researchers have developed a test that can detect Meningitis, a disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose in just one hour thereby promising to potentially save dozens of lives every year. Meningitis is a life threatening disease which should be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.Meningitis can kill in hours yet the current way to positively identify the infection takes about two days. At the moment, doctors rely on clinical judgement to decide whether antibiotics are urgently needed in all probable cases of meningitis which commonly affects babies, children and teenagers or young adults. Because the early stages of meningococcal disease are notoriously difficult to diagnose,
At the moment, doctors rely on clinical judgement to decide whether antibiotics are urgently needed in all probable cases of meningitis which commonly affects babies, children and teenagers or young adults. Because the early stages of meningococcal disease are notoriously difficult to diagnose, doctors tend to err on the side of caution resulting in the majority of suspected cases receiving precautionary treatment. A study led by Queen’s University Belfast and The Belfast Trust found that out of the 105 babies and children treated for suspected Meningococcal Septicaemia, only one third were later found to be infected meaning
A study led by Queen’s University Belfast and The Belfast Trust found that out of the 105 babies and children treated for suspected Meningococcal Septicaemia, only one third were later found to be infected meaning two-thirds received treatment unnecessarily. The NHS ‘gold standard’ test (blood cultures) for detecting meningococcal disease can take up to 48 hours for results to come back.
According to UK researchers say the new test will give results in under 60 minutes.In order to take care of rare possibility of missing diagnosis, a rapid “Lamp” (Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification) test on blood, spinal fluid or nasal swab samples could help. They say the LAMP test proved to be as efficient as the standard test in “returning accurate diagnosis though in a fraction of the time”.
Speaking to Irish Mirror ,Dr James McKenna, Clinical Scientist and lead researcher in developing the LAMP test, said: “The LAMP test enables doctors to efficiently diagnose Meningococcal Septicaemia within an hour. The LAMP diagnosis could significantly reduce the number of patients taking medication unnecessarily as well as preventing needless anxiety to patients and their families. The doctors will adopt the safest approach of treating potential bacterial cases with antibiotics during the two-year pilot and alongside will also use the rapid Lamp test to quickly evaluate if their clinical insights were correct .”With the best will in the world you can still miss cases if a child looks quite well and you think it is viral rather than bacterial.”The test could also provide reassurance earlier to anxious parents that their sick child is getting the right treatment. Two days is a long time to wait for a confirmed diagnosis.”
Rob Dawson, from the Meningitis Research Foundation, said a simple, rapid diagnostic was long overdue.”There is an urgent need for developments in this area and we look forward to seeing how this test could work in a hospital or healthcare settings.”
The work is funded by the Health and Social Care NI Public Health Agency and by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and is being done in collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast, the Paediatric Emergency Research UK & Ireland Network and The Belfast Trust.
Private company Hibergene have patented the Lamp testing equipment that is on loan to the hospital for the study.
The test saves lives as well as saving precious time for hospital staff so the next stage is that this test can be made readily available to clinicians. When designing the LAMP diagnosis, we focused on producing a test that would be easy to use for clinicians in a hospital setting, taking away from what can be a timely cost of tests being performed by trained lab technicians.”
They say that although research has proven the LAMP test’s accuracy, further research is required to demonstrate the practicality of testing being undertaken by a clinician in a hospital environment.
The team added: “If rolled out across the UK, the test could not only prevent children being admitted for treatment for meningococcal disease unnecessarily, but it could also stop children being wrongly sent home, potentially saving dozens of lives every year.”