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Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Pocket Project will develop a low-cost and accurate point-of-care test to diagnose Tuberculosis

Coordinated from Ghent University (Belgium), this European project combines nanophotonic biosensors and novel selective antibodies in a lab-on-chip platform to diagnose Tuberculosis through urine. CSIC Researcher Prof. Laura M. Lechuga leads the ICN2 Group involved in the project, which is willing to go beyond a mere laboratory prototype whith field trials in Africa and India during the final part of the three-year project.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs. Although it is curable and preventable it remains one of the world's top infectious killers. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year there are worldwide 8.8 million new active TB cases and nearly 2 million TB deaths - 5000 every day - mostly in the poorest communities of the developing world. It is among the top three causes of death among women aged 15 to 44, and it is especially frequent in people living with HIV causing one fifth of all deaths related to AIDS.

The European research Project Pocket (Development of a low-cost Point-Of-Care test for Tuberculosis detection), launched in November 2013, develops a low cost accurate urine test for the detection of TB designed to become an accessible tool to face the infection in developing countries. The leaders of the Pocket project are meeting on September 18th-19th at the Institut Catala de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia (ICN2), where the Nanobiosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group led by the CSIC Research Prof. Laura M. Lechuga is involved in the biofunctionalization and biosensor development. The initiative is funded by the ICT program of the EU with 2.6 million Euros and coordinated by Prof. Peter Bienstman of Ghent University (Belgium).

The early treatment of TB is currently hindered by the lack of rapid, accurate diagnostic tools, especially those that can be applied as a point-of-care device in the resource-constrained settings in developing countries. Alternatives do exists, but they either come at a high cost or lack the required sensitivity. The Pocket Project integrates a number of world-class novel technologies to provide a cheap and sensitive point-of-care TB test combining nanophotonics and novel selective antibodies. The new tool will be able to detect through urine the presence of TB antibodies. The antibodies to be detected are different depending on whether the person is infected with HIV, increasing the complexity of the sensor surface on which researchers from ICN2 are already working.

The objective of Pocket is to go beyond a mere laboratory prototype instrument, so during the final year of the project it will organise field trials in Africa and India. Despite most cases of TB occur in developing countries, the test being developed might be useful worldwide because the infection is reemerging in major urban populations in Europe, due to the increase in global travel.

Pocket project partners

The Pocket consortium is coordinated by Ghent University. The project partners are:

Ghent University (Belgium, www.photonics.intec.ugent.be): photonics transducer design ICN2 (Spain, www.icn2.cat - www.nanob2a.cin2.es): surface chemistry Imec (Belgium, www.imec.be): chip fabrication Lionex (Denmark, www.lionex.de): antibody and antigen development Microfluidic ChipShop (Denmark, www.microfluidic-chipshop.com): microfluidic chip development Trinean (Belgium, www.trinean.com): instrument design