New point-of-care diagnostics for syphilis and yaws evaluated

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A new point-of-care diagnostic allows testing in rural, resource-limited areas according to study published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The team demonstrated that this option was faster and preferable to the previously available serological tests, with next steps looking at the impact and cost-effectiveness of scale-up.

Syphilis is an important cause of mortality and morbidity across the globe, for example, it is one of the major preventable causes of stillbirth. In addition, the WHO is targeting yaws for eradication and has identified improved diagnostic capability as a priority for endemic countries.

Blood tests are the current standard test for both syphilis and yaws; however, these require electricity and specialist equipment that may not be available in resource-limited settings.

In this study the team, led by Michael Marks (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Diseases, UK), tested the Dual Path Platform (DPP-POCT) Syphilis Screens test in patients attending four rural clinics and a hospital in the Soloman Islands. They carried out a qualitative study, interviewing both patients and healthcare workers to gain insight into their beliefs, a factor that has been demonstrated to play a major role in shaping the real-world use of point-of-care tests.

The researchers demonstrated that test results could be obtained in under half an hour, with no electricity or special equipment needed. They reported that while some healthcare workers still felt this length of time could disrupt workflow in the clinical environment; all of those interviewed felt the test was favorable compared with the standard week-long wait for laboratory test results. Moreover, the team discovered that healthcare workers felt confident in the DPP-POCT results and patients were satisfied by speed and convenience of the test.

The team concluded: “Our data highlight the ability of these tests to improve access to diagnostics for patients in remote communities, and the receptiveness to the test of healthcare workers and patients. Longer term and larger evaluations of DPP-POCT would be valuable to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of scaling up access to the [test].”

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Sources: Marks M, Esau T, Asugeni et al. Point-of-care tests for syphilis and yaws in a low-income setting– a qualitative study of healthcare worker and patient experiences. PLoS Neg. Trop. Dis. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0006360 (2018); www.eurekalert.org/emb_releases/2018-04/p-btf041118.php

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