A joint research effort coordinated by Ghent University (Ghent, Belgium) seeks to develop a new tool to detect and diagnose tuberculosis through urine.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which primarily affects the lungs. The disease is transmitted via inhalation of droplets from the throat and lungs of people with an active form of the infection. Second only to HIV/AIDS as the most deadly single infectious agent, TB is a serious health issue worldwide. There were 8.6 million new cases of TB in 2012, and 1.3 million of those infected died from the disease. However, TB is a treatable and curable disease if detected swiftly.
The effectiveness of TB treatment is currently hampered by the lack of rapid and accurate diagnosis. There is a particular need for a point-of-care detection tool that could be applied in the developing countries where TB prevails and resources are limited. Current detection methods are frequently very costly or lack sensitivity. The European research project Pocket (Development of a low-cost point-of-care test for Tuberculosis detection) aims to address this need by developing a new tool that can detect TB in urine.
Launched in 2013, Pocket is developing a low-cost urine test for the diagnosis of TB with the goal of it becoming an accessible tool to fight the disease in developing countries. The project utilizes world-class technology, combining nanophotonics and novel selective antibodies to create a cheap and sensitive point-of-care test for TB. The antibodies that are detected differ if the individual is also infected with HIV, and so the sensor surface has an increased complexity.
The Pocket project is a joint research effort coordinated from Ghent University (Ghent, Belgium) where researchers are working on photonics transducer design. Project partners at the Institut Català de Nanociència i Nanotecnologia (Barcelona, Spain) are involved in the biofunctionalization and biosensor development. The initiative has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration.
Pocket ultimately wants to go a step further than a laboratory prototype, and field trials in India and Africa are planned for the final year of the project.