A scientist from the University of Exeter has developed a simple, cheap and highly accurate device for diagnosing a frequently fatal lung disease which attacks immune deficient individuals such as cancer patients and bone marrow transplant recipients.
The lateral-flow device (LFD), created by Professor Chris Thornton, detects invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, a notoriously difficult to diagnose disease caused by the fungus Aspergillus.
Invasive aspergillosis is a leading cause of death in acute leukemia and bone marrow transplant patients, accounting for more than 200,000 life-threatening infections each year, with an associated mortality rate of up to 90%.
The new device – which resembles a pregnancy test but uses a small blood sample – will cost health authorities just £10 (about $17 US) per test and will fit into routine hospital practices. It will potentially reduce the high rates of mortality and morbidity associated with the disease and enable better use of costly and toxic antifungal drugs.
Professor Thornton, of Biosciences, said: “Individuals with invasive pulmonary aspergillosis are often suffering from complex medical conditions and the symptoms, which include raised temperature, breathlessness, chest pain and fatigue, could be attributable to a number of other conditions. At present, it can take several days to identify the disease correctly due to the lack of accurate diagnostic tests, and the patient’s health deteriorates significantly in the absence of appropriate treatment.