NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES
The World Health Organisation describes neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as a diverse group of 20 conditions mainly prevalent in tropical regions, impacting impoverished communities and disproportionately affecting women and children. These diseases cause devastating health, social and economic consequences and affect over one billion people. The epidemiology of NTDs is complex and often related to environmental conditions. Many of these diseases are vector-borne, have animal reservoirs and are associated with complex life cycles. All these factors make their public-health control challenging. Various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins, cause them.
In isolated poor communities, it can often be difficult for people to get to health centres when needed, and it is highly beneficial if disease testing can be brought to people. While Covid has had a devastating impact globally, it has highlighted and accelerated the development of new POC testing strategies. Loop-mediated amplification (LAMP) has come of age, it is a powerful method for diagnostics, but it is prone to producing a low level of false positives. We have combined LAMP with CRISPR on a simple paper-based microfluidic chip. This approach eliminates the problem of nonspecific amplification and results in diagnostic tests that are rapid, low-cost, specific and visually intense. We have also developed S-TECH (https://www.dnaitech.com/s-tech), an essential element for sample processing at POC.
Microfluidics is a powerful approach to the delivery of diagnostics. Most microfluidic systems consist of complex circuits that drive fluids by pumps and require specialised modified channels and reaction domains. Such sophisticated technologies come at a cost and will inevitably be biased toward delivery to developed countries. We use the simplicity of the absorbency of paper to drive fluidic flow and the power of LAMP-CRISPR to generate a vivid signal. We believe the collective ongoing global efforts to address NTDs can be enhanced by utilising LAMP-CRISPR in a paper-based microfluidics format to deliver low-cost POC diagnostics where it is desperately needed.