Test to more rapidly diagnose deadly tropical disease

Melioidosis, which particularly affects people in tropical regions of Australia such as Townsville and Darwin, is caused by the multidrug resistant bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, which is endemic in Northern Australia and is also listed as a potential bioterror agent.

Melioidosis is difficult to diagnose, which is a contributing factor to the high mortality rate of the disease ranging from 16 per cent in northern Australia to 40 per cent in northeast Thailand.

The development of the new 2DIA diagnostic test involved researchers from JCU and The Townsville Hospital, and was funded by the Queensland Government’s Smart Futures Fund.

Associate Professor Schaeffer, leader of JCU’s Supramolecular and Synthetic Biology Group, said previous sensitive tests took three to four days to obtain a result. Alternative, more rapid tests exist but have very low sensitivity and can misdiagnose of up to half of patients presenting with melioidosis, he said.

“The 2DIA test works by detecting a subset of specific antibodies that are released in the blood of all patients infected by the bacterium,” Associate Professor Schaeffer said.

“The research team is now in the process of translating the technology into a rapid life-saving bedside test.”

Melioidosis is treatable by a limited number of antibiotics and is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in humans and animals in tropical regions. Major risk factors to develop the disease include diabetes mellitus, chronic renal failure, chronic lung disease, and excessive alcohol use.

The findings of this study were recently published in the journal Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

Reference: Improved diagnosis of melioidosis using a two-dimensional immunoarray, Diagnostic Microbiology & Infectious Disease , Alanna E. Sorenson, Natasha L. Williams, Jodie L. Morris, Natkunam Ketheesan, Robert E. Norton, Patrick M. Schaeffer: DOI information: 10.1016/j.diagmicrobio.2013.07.009

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