Scientists develop dipstick test for river blindness

A new diagnostic procedure is capable of detecting the parasitic worms that cause onchocerciasis


US scientists at Scripps Research have developed a new way of detecting the parasite that causes onchocerciasis, which is also known as river blindness, using a urine dipstick test.

The research, which was published in Infectious Diseases, highlighted the previous lack of a robust, point-of-care diagnostic for river blindness.

Study author, Kim Janda, of Scripps Research, observed that many of the endemic river blindness regions are in difficult-to-access regions in Africa and Latin America.

“What is needed in the field is an inexpensive point-of-care means to monitor the disease,” he shared.

The current method used to detect for the parasitic worms that cause the disease is a “skin snip” biopsy.

However, this test is relatively insensitive while other diagnostic methods cannot distinguish between past and current infection.

The new lateral flow assay test is non-invasive in contrast to the skin snip test. It accurately identified river blindness in 85% of patient samples analysed.