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Global Health Partnership Developing Rapid Diagnostic Test to Detect Schistosomiasis

NEW YORK ─ A group of global health partners on Monday announced a collaboration to develop a rapid diagnostic test for the testing of schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease caused by infection with parasitic worms.

The partners are Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, Nagasaki University Institute of Tropical Medicine, Leiden University Medical Center, Merck KGaA, and Mologic.

The collaboration, supported by $3.5 million from Tokyo-based GHIT, aims to accelerate the development and validation of a prototype rapid test developed by Geneva-based FIND, Thurleigh, UK-based Mologic, Leiden, Netherlands-based LUMC, and Darmstadt, Germany-based Merck.

The partners are aiming to develop a fingerstick test to detect circulating levels of an antigen secreted continuously by living schistosomes from various species. The test has been shown to have sensitivity comparable with repeated microscopy but without the drawbacks of complex sample preparation, specialist expertise in microscopy, and the need for repeat testing, the partners said.

The test, for Asian and African schistosomiasis, will enable the monitoring of treatment campaigns and programs and the implementation of evaluation surveys, the partners said. The test is urgently needed, they added, to guide the targeted deployment of medicines to the individuals and areas where they can have the greatest impact. The device is subject to global access terms to ensure that it will be affordable and accessible in communities within endemic countries.

Schistosomiasis affects more than 220 million people, and with more than 90 percent of cases in Africa, it is estimated that a further 700 million people could be at risk of infection, according to the World Health Organization.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.