First schistosomiasis antigen test available for patients

Editorial Medicalfacts/ Janine Budding February 01, 2022 – 08:16

Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) is the first Dutch hospital to offer an antigen test for the tropical disease schistosomiasis. This test was designed, developed and produced entirely in the LUMC. The test shows the difference between an active or a previous infection. The test also shows whether the treatment is working.

Schistosomiasis, also known as schistosomiasis, is a tropical disease caused by a parasitic worm infection. In some cases, it is difficult to diagnose this disease in patients. The current diagnosis consists of a combination of measuring antibodies in the blood and detecting the parasite in urine or stool samples. The downside is that these methods don’t detect all infections anyway. It is also not possible to distinguish between an active infection and an infection that has already occurred, since antibodies are still present in the blood long after an infection. The new antigen test offers a solution in these points.

More clarity

The test, developed at the Leiden University Center for Infectious Diseases (LU-CID), measures the concentration of CAA in the blood. This is a molecule that the worm releases into the blood and is then recognized by our immune system. The test mainly shows whether the infection is active. “It gives doctors more clarity. With this test we can show whether the treatment is working,” says Linda Wammes, medical microbiologist. “Is a patient still positive for antigens? Then we can treat that person again. Is the patient antigen negative but still ill? Then we look for another cause.”

Better patient care

The antigen test is the result of intensive collaboration between the Parasitology and Cell and Chemical Biology departments. The test has been used in the Medical Microbiology Department for diagnostics and follow-up treatment since December. The researchers are also developing the test further. “The test still requires a lot of preparation in the laboratory. Therefore, application in tropical areas where the disease is widespread is not yet easy. Our goal is to design the test in such a way that it can be used anywhere,” says Wammes.

LUMC’s Clinical Microbiological Laboratory (KML) is the only laboratory offering this test for patient care in the Netherlands. The KML therefore receives samples from all over the country. The aim is also to make the test available to other European countries. Wammes: “With this test we have a unique complete package for schistosomiasis. By offering the test in a wide variety of ways, we hope to contribute to better patient care.”

Leiden tradition

It is estimated that 240 million people worldwide are infected with the parasite that causes schistosomiasis. The disease is associated with poverty and occurs primarily in tropical areas. It is also known as a neglected disease because it is not a high priority on the global health agenda. It’s different in Leiden. The LUMC has a long history of research into schistosomiasis. The foundations for this antigen test were laid back in the 1970s when Professor Andre Deelder first identified the antigens of this worm. Recently, LUMC, led by Professor Meta Roestenberg, developed the first controlled infection model for schistosomiasis, previously only used for malaria. This allows researchers to study the disease more closely and may eventually lead to a vaccine or new treatment for the disease.

What: LUMC

Editorial Medicalfacts/ Janine Budding

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