van Dam GJ, de Dood CJ, Lewis M, Deelder AM, van Lieshout L, Tanke HJ, van Rooyen LH, Corstjens PL
An earlier reported laboratory assay, performed in The Netherlands, to diagnose Schistosoma infections by detection of the parasite antigen CAA in serum was converted to a more user-friendly format with dry reagents. The improved assay requires less equipment and allows storage and worldwide shipping at ambient temperature. Evaluation of the new assay format was carried out by local staff at Ampath Laboratories, South Africa. The lateral flow (LF) based assay utilized fluorescent ultrasensitive up-converting phosphor (UCP) reporter particles, to be read by a portable reader (UPlink) that was also provided to the laboratory. Over a period of 18months, about 2000 clinical samples were analyzed prospectively in parallel with a routinely carried out CAA-ELISA. LF test results and ELISA data correlated very well at CAA concentrations above 300pg/mL serum. At lower concentrations the UCP-LF test indicates a better performance than the ELISA. The UCP-LF strips can be stored as a permanent record as the UCP label does not fade. At the end of the 18months testing period, LF strips were shipped back to The Netherlands where scan results obtained in South Africa were validated with different UCP scanning equipment including a novel, custom developed, small lightweight UCP strip reader (UCP-Quant), well suited for testing in low resource settings. CONCLUSION: The dry format UCP-LF assay was shown to provide a robust and easy to use format for rapid testing of CAA antigen in serum. It performed at least as good as the ELISA with respect to sensitivity and specificity, and was found to be superior with respect to speed and simplicity of use. Worldwide shipping at ambient temperature of the assay reagents, and the availability of small scanners to analyze the CAA UCP-LF strip, are two major steps towards point-of-care (POC) applications in remote and resource poor environments to accurately identify low (30pg CAA/mL serum; equivalent to about 10 worm pairs) to heavy Schistosoma infections.