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New UK-India project to trial cost-effective, easy-to-use medical test

New UK-India project to trial cost-effective, easy-to-use medical test
Courtesy: Nenov | Moment Via Getty Images

Medical research charity LifeArc has revealed that a new UK-India research project is trialling an easy-to-use test to determine if a urinary tract infection (UTI) is present to help establish a suitable course of action and help fight against the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The Diagnostics for One Health and User Driven Solutions for Antimicrobial Resistance (DOSA) brings together five leading academic institutions to create innovative and rapid diagnostic technologies to reduce AMR. DOSA2, as the latest phase is known, is coordinated by the University of Edinburgh and includes partners at the University of the Arts London, Silchar Medical College, Assam University and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi.

Dr Mike Strange, Head of Global Health, LifeArc, said: We are delighted to be supporting the DOSA UTI field trial as part of our Global Health Translational Challenge in Antimicrobial Resistance and to help bring promising medical research from the lab and turn it into breakthroughs for patients.

“Through our work, we hope to help slow the emergence of drug-resistant infections and improve the ability to diagnose and treat them.”

The new project is a continuation of the successful DOSA1 project, funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Economic Social Science Research Council, Newton Fund, and the government of India’s Department of Biotechnology, which has developed a low-cost, easy-to-use diagnostic strip. Once dipped in a urine sample, it tells in minutes if an infection is present which can inform the best course of action.

The field study of DOSA2 is attempting to tackle the global issue of AMR at the community level by working with healthcare professionals at primary healthcare centres, volunteers and accredited social health activists (ASHAs), employed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India. They will collect urine samples from communities in India to help assess the accuracy of the DOSA UTI test strip and work with ASHAs to establish an understanding on the knowledge and practises around UTIs.

Professor Till Bachmann, Personal Chair of Molecular Diagnostics and Infection at the University of Edinburgh, said: “UTIs are the second leading cause of human antibiotic consumption worldwide, with antibiotics often bought over the counter and taken without medical supervision, creating a vicious cycle of antimicrobial resistance. UTIs can cause lasting, sometimes life-threatening, problems, if appropriate medical care is not provided.

“This project has the potential to transform lives through a cost-effective and simple-to-use diagnostic test. We are immensely proud and thankful of our continued successful collaboration with our partners at the University of the Arts London, Silchar Medical College, Assam University and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and – most importantly – partners in primary care and the community in Assam (north-east India).

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“LifeArc’s investment in this field trial will ultimately enable policy makers to collect and analyse reliable data in the community in an unprecedented way. We hope to show the project’s viability to deliver meaningful change across India which could then lead to widespread adoption across other low-and middle-income countries and for other conditions.”

The test uses two specific indicators in urine to detect the presence of bacteria and an infection. According to experts, it is designed to be used at home and is a fraction of the cost of commercially available alternatives, at less than 10 pence per strip, with an easier readout, and better environmental impact. A crucial part of the new project is to help overcome stigma and engage rural communities across India to build trust and show the benefit of this kind of testing.

AMR is one of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) top 10 threats to global health which, if unchecked, could lead to 10 million deaths per year by 2050. This is because the antibiotics relied upon every day to deal with minor infections or after surgery could simply stop working.

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India has the highest human antibiotic use in the world and, if successful, the DOSA Project could significantly help in the prevention and treatment of UTIs and the appropriate use of antibiotics in the country.

The research is part of a broader effort to shift the UTI treatment landscape in low-and-middle-income countries, by addressing health, behaviours and systems and the interactions between them. 

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