Researchers at Columbia University have developed a microfluidic device that can diagnose Lyme disease in as little as 15 minutes. The device is particularly accurate in identifying antibody biomarkers that are present during early stage Lyme disease, raising hopes that it could be useful in detecting cases of early infection in a doctor’s office, leading to timely treatment.
Lyme disease, which is spread by infected ticks, is incredibly common. Approximately 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year, and if left untreated it can result in serious neurological and cardiac symptoms. The disease is difficult to spot, as many of the early symptoms are similar to those found with other conditions.
Diagnosing and treating the disease early is important in achieving good patient outcomes, but the current diagnostic tests require both an ELISA and a western blot, which are cumbersome, take a while to perform, and require trained laboratory specialists. Moreover, the accuracy of these tests in identifying early cases of Lyme disease is quite poor.
To address these issues, the Columbia researchers developed a point-of-care microfluidic test for Lyme disease, which a doctor could use in their office, and which can provide a diagnosis within just 15 minutes.
“Our findings are the first to demonstrate that Lyme disease diagnosis can be carried out in a microfluidic format that can provide rapid quantitative results,” said Sam Sia, a researcher involved in the study. “This means that our test could easily be used directly in a doctor’s office, obviating having to send the samples out to a laboratory that needs at least a couple of hours, if not days, to get test results.”
The new assay detects three biomarkers of Lyme disease in patient samples, and demonstrates greater sensitivity than traditional Lyme detection assays. Excitingly, the device also appears to be better at detecting early stage Lyme disease and can detect antibodies that are present in the blood in the first few weeks after someone contracts Lyme disease.
“While the assay will require more refinement and testing before it can be approved for widespread use as a test for Lyme disease, our results are very exciting,” said Siddarth Arumugam, another researcher involved in the study. “It will help so many people if we can develop a single, rapid, multiplexed diagnostic test to identify Lyme disease stage that can be used in doctors’ offices.”
Study in Journal of Clinical Microbiology: A Multiplexed Serologic Test for Diagnosis of Lyme Disease for Point-of-Care Use
Via: Columbia University