Pan-malaria aptamer-based rapid diagnostic test
Institut de Bioenginyeria de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Malaria is a parasitic disease caused by Plasmodium and occurring in tropical countries. There were 228 million malaria cases and 405,000 deaths in 2018. PaMApDx is a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) based on proprietary aptamers that detect all different Plasmodium species causing malaria.
Despite the World Health Organization objective of achieving malaria eradication, the available diagnostic tools fail to meet the requirements: rapidity, cost-efficiency, submicroscopic parasite detection, field reliability and ease of use.
The current diagnostic standard is microscopy, and even though RDTs based on antibodies are used, they face several drawbacks: low stability, low sensitivity, and antigens that undergo variation. Aptamers could overcome these limitations.
There are currently no RDTs based on aptamers. These molecules can detect their targets with affinity and specificity comparable to that of antibodies, but their nature is different in that they are made of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This means that they are more stable in storage conditions, they are easier and cheaper to produce, and no animals are required for their generation.
The aptamers developed for this project can detect 4 different Plasmodium species that cause human malaria, and, if required, new aptamers are easy to raise against new molecular targets to overcome antigen variability.