Goals and objectives
The FP7 research project “DiscoGnosis” (“Disc-shaped Point-of-Care platform for infectious disease diagnosis”) was launched beginning of November 2012 in University of Freiburg, at the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK). Its core objective was to develop a fully integrated, automated and user-friendly platform that would allow the detection of malaria and other tropical diseases causing acute fever in a rapid, multiplexed and non-invasive way. The selected pathogens for the project demonstration included: (i) parasites: Plasmodium falciparum, ovale, vivax, malariae, responsible for malaria; (ii) viruses: dengue (serotypes 1-4), chikungunya, zika; (iii) bacteria: Salmonella Typhi/Paratyphi, Streptococcus pneumoniae.
The technological approach
The DiscoGnosis platform operates similarly to a CD player: a disc-shaped plastic disposable chip handles the injected blood sample, distributing it among integrated microfluidic chambers using centrifugal forces. All necessary (bio)chemical components that are needed for the genetic identification of the pathogens are pre-stored on the disc, namely buffers and magnetic beads for DNA & RNA extraction and purification; amplification enzymes in a lyophilized form; primers and probes for the specific target amplification. Loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) enables a sample to answer time between 70 and 120 min (depending on each specific assay reaction). The involved technologies enable diagnosis to be conducted closely to the patient and provide large populations with a modern diagnostic Point-of-Care tool in regions with low medical infrastructure.
The 3-year project resulted in successful demonstration of the developed platform in two small scale studies, at the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Senegal, and at the Central Laboratory Khartoum, Sudan, where samples were tested with the LabDisk and the results were confirmed by reference methods. Overall, the platform has a high potential to (i) contribute to patient management through diagnosis of diseases with similar clinical symptoms by detecting the genetic profile of the pathogen, and (ii) further enhance the “shield” of Europe against potential spread of the examined diseases due to climate change and globalisation.
The project is supported by the European Commission through the 7th Framework Programme on Research and Technological Development within the Objective FP7 ICT-2011.3.2 and under Grant Agreement No. 318408.