Onchocerciasis Point-of-Care Test
Onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, affects 18 million people with an estimated 120 million people at risk–mostly in poor, rural communities near streams and rivers in Africa.
For Africa to move from disease control to elimination, better diagnostic tools are needed, especially for monitoring post-control areas for signs of reinfection and for detecting cases in low-prevalence areas.
PATH is currently developing a rapid, affordable, and field-friendly diagnostic test based on the detection of antibodies to the Onchocerca volvulus antigen, Ov16.
Ultimately, the goal of the project is to make the onchocerciasis rapid test commercially available for purchase by the onchocerciasis community to help elimination efforts. PATH is on track to meeting this goal in the fall of 2014.
River blindness is a parasitic infection transmitted to humans through the bite of the blackfly. It causes itching, skin disfiguration, and with chronic exposure, permanent blindness. It also leads affected communities to abandon productive agricultural fields for fear of infection.
International partnerships have helped reduce the burden of onchocerciasis, paving the way for elimination. These efforts rely on continuous, community-wide testing, which allow control programs to target efforts and monitor recurrence.
The best currently available test is an invasive, labor-intensive procedure called a skin snip. Eliminating onchocerciasis will require improved diagnostic tools.
The goal of this project is to develop an affordable rapid test that will be easy to use, require less-invasive sampling methods, and provide faster results. It will have significant advantages over methods currently in use. Its design features make the test practical and convenient for use in the field.
In combination with other strategies, a simple, field-friendly, and affordable rapid test could be a powerful tool for use in Africa as onchocerciasis programs move from control to elimination.
PATH has collaborated with scientists at the National Institutes of Health, a South Korean manufacturer, and others to bring a new rapid test for river blindness to market.
The new point-of-care test developed by PATH and partners is based on the detection of antibodies to a parasite antigen called Ov16, which was identified by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The test detects exposure to Onchocerca volvulus, the parasite that causes onchocerciasis, by checking for these antibodies in a single drop of blood from a finger prick. It is fast, accurate, easy to use, and less painful for patients than the skin-snip test.
In 2012, NIAID scientists evaluated test prototypes and found excellent performance. In addition, PATH studied how users interact with the test and used their feedback to refine the test’s design.
PATH partnered with two organizations in the endemic country of Togo to conduct field-based evaluations in early 2013. The goal of this work was to evaluate the performance of the test in field conditions. We compared the Ov16 rapid test to the two proven methods of diagnosis, the skin snip and the ELISA tests, evaluating dried blood spots in the lab collected during our field work. Using the valuable data provided by the field study, PATH further refined the test.
To bring the test to market, PATH sought a manufacturing partner that could meet regulatory and process requirements to create and effectively distribute the product at an affordable price. After onsite assessments of several candidates, we selected Standard Diagnostics (SD), a firm based in South Korea.
In early 2013, PATH transferred the technology for the test to SD. PATH is supporting these efforts and helping facilitate introduction of the commercial test, SD BIOLINE Onchocerciasis IgG4, in local markets. PATH also ran follow-up laboratory- and field-based evaluations of the test and used the results to further refine the prototype.
PATH is planning to launch the SD BIOLINE Onchocerciasis IgG4 rapid test in late 2014 with SD as manufacturer and distributor.
The new test, together with mass drug treatment, has the potential to help vulnerable communities finally end the suffering caused by onchocerciasis.
This program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- FAQ – Onchocerciasis Rapid Test
- Fact Sheet – July 2014 – Onchocerciasis Rapid Test
- Poster, ASTMH, 2013 – Criteria for testing development of rapid diagnostic test to support onchocerciasis control and elimination programs
- PATH 2013 Annual Report – section on diagnostics
- December 2013 article in PATH newsletter “Directions” about onchocerciasis test
For more information
Contact the Onchocerciasis Team
Tala de los Santos, Project Lead
Contact PATH’s Seattle headquarters