Dr. Govert van Dam from Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) Leiden, The Netherlands, is the coordinator of the freeBILy consortium that received a grant of €3 million to conduct research aimed at improving the health of pregnant women, new-borns and small children in developing countries. Schistosomiasis is one of the 17 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) listed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Currently, around 260 million people are at risk for schistosomiasis worldwide, the majority of them living on the African continent. Schistosomiasis can result into chronic morbidities that affect the urogenital and intestinal organs. If untreated, the liver or bladder can be severely damaged. A point-of-care diagnostic test for schistosomiasis (POC-CCA) has been developed by the department of Parasitology at the LUMC, and has been commercially available since 2008. This diagnostic test is particularly useful for diagnosing intestinal schistosomiasis. Additionally, together with the department of Cell and Chemical Biology also at the LUMC, a laboratory-based, up-converting phosphor based lateral flow (UCP-LF) test detecting circulating anodic antigen (CAA) of all Schistosoma species in urine has been developed. This test is exceptionally sensitive and specific, and also quantifies CAA levels reflecting active, ongoing infections of even single Schistosoma worms.
The money from the grant will be used for the implementation of the POC-CCA as well as the UCP-LF-CAA test in Madagascar and Gabon to be used in diagnosis among vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, new-borns and small children.
“The rapid test is a urine test, similar to a pregnancy test”, according to Dr. Govert van Dam, who works at the department of Parasitology. “The result is available within 30 minutes, after which treatment can be started directly. This is an advantage, as in developing countries people often don’t have the possibility to go back to the health clinic if the test result takes a long time to receive the outcome and/or treatment. Furthermore, besides being a rapid test, the POC-CCA test is also cheap.”
The majority of the grant, coming from EDCTP, will be used to make the rapid test available for vulnerable populations in Madagascar and Gabon. Van Dam: ‘’For example, people in antenatal clinics have to be trained in the application of the test. And sufficient medication must be available so treatment can be initiated immediately. When the tests are widely used, we can see to what extent they contribute to the adequate treatment of pregnant women, new-borns and small children. In the final stage, we will transfer our findings to the WHO, so they can use it to adapt their policy with regard to the use of this rapid test.’’
The partners in the freeBILy consortium:
- Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné (CERMEL), Gabon
- Université d’Antananarivo (UA), Madagascar
- Centre d’Infectiologie Charles Mérieux (CICM), Madagascar
- Université de Fianarantsoa (UF), Madagascar
- Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands
- Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (EKUT), Germany
- Bernhard-Nocht-Institut für Tropenmedizin (BNITM), Germany
- Fundación Privada Instituto de Salud Global Barcelona (ISGLobal), Spain
About the EDCTP
The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) funds clinical research to accelerate the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines, microbicides and diagnostics against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as well as other poverty-related infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on phase II and III clinical trials.