Invited Speaker Australian Society for Microbiology Annual Scientific Meeting 2018

Rapid and smart diagnostics for low resource detection of human and animal diseases (#53)

Joanne Macdonald 1 2
  1. Genecology Research Centre, Inflammation and Healing Research Cluster, School of Science and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Qld, Australia
  2. Division of Experimental Therapeutics, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

Existing and emerging diseases threaten human health, food security, livestock and agricultural productivity. However, point of care methods for rapid detection of these diseases can be limited by accuracy, requiring centralised laboratory testing using accurate molecular genetics-based diagnostics, such as real-time PCR. The requirement for centralised testing can create critical delays in the treatment and management of infectious diseases outbreaks. I have identified and developed a low-resource molecular genetics testing workflow that enables accurate disease identification without any sophisticated equipment. Not even a centrifuge is required to process specimens, only a battery-operated heating block is required for incubation at 39 °C during an isothermal amplification step. Pathogens can be detected within raw samples (blood, tissue or swabs) in 20-40 minutes with similar sensitivity to laboratory-based molecular genetics tests (10-100 copies/µL). My research group has demonstrated this method can be applied generically for the detection of bacteria, parasites, and viruses, with high (>95%) diagnostic sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy. We have also developed multiplex technology to display disease identification in text without the requirement for electronic displays to interpret the results. Critically, only a single solution change enables adaption of the kits to detect other diseases, without any other change in the manufacturing protocol. The technology thus has broad health implications for improving accessibility of diagnostics in regional and remote communities, and for rapid deployment during emergent disease outbreaks.