A quick new test for Aspergillus infections in patients

A rapid new test for Aspergillus fumigatus fungal infections has been described at the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Harrogate on April 2nd. Fungal infections by Aspergillus species are a major cause of death in patients whose immune systems are suppressed or damaged - for instance transplant patients or those undergoing chemotherapy.

These groups of patients are susceptible to an invasive form of aspergillus infection with a high fatality rate. Invasive aspergillosis is currently difficult to diagnose and tests are lengthy and expensive. Current tests are not always specific and false positives are not infrequent.

Dr Christopher Thornton and colleagues, of the University of Exeter, UK has developed a test for invasive aspergillosis using a technology similar to that in home pregnancy tests. The test uses a monoclonal antibody which binds to a glycoprotein antigen secreted specifically by Aspergillus species. It does not apparently give a cross reaction with any other clinically important fungi and takes 15 minutes to perform, making it quicker and less costly than conventional laboratory-based tests. Being user friendly it may be useful at the point of care as a result of its speediness.
The test is currently being developed with a multinational clinical diagnostics company to develop a commercial version of the test.