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New Device Detects Deadly Lung Disease

Simple blood test monitors infection at point of care

A scientist at the University of Exeter in the U.K. has developed a simple, inexpensive device for diagnosing a frequently fatal lung disease that attacks immune-deficient individuals, such as cancer patients and bone-marrow transplant recipients.

The lateral-flow device (LFD) detects invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, a difficult-to-diagnose disease caused by the fungus Aspergillus.

Invasive aspergillosis is a leading cause of death in acute leukemia patients and in bone-marrow transplant recipients, 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 — was designed to fit into routine hospital practices.

The device’s creator, Professor Chris Thornton, 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.

“The low cost, speed, ease-of-use, and compatibility of the new device with standard hospital procedures mean that the disease can be quickly and accurately monitored at the point-of-care using a simple blood test or with fluids collected during lung biopsy.”

The LFD will be used in hospitals around the world beginning in August. The test uses a highly specific monoclonal antibody to detect a diagnostic marker of active Aspergillus infection, meaning that physicians can more precisely identify patients developing the disease.

Source: University of Exeter; July 24, 2014.

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