A prototype diagnostic device to test for a parasite-borne disease threatening about 60 million cattle in sub-Saharan Africa has been created.
The endemic cattle disease nagana, also called animal African trypanosomiasis, is caused mainly by two parasite species – Trypanosoma vivax and Trypanosoma congolense.
It causes muscle wasting and death, and accounts for up to a 50% loss in milk and meat production across more than 40 African countries. It has also spread to South America.
Developed by the University of Dundee and the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), the diagnostic device, which is less than 3in long and resembles a pregnancy testing kit, can analyse a single drop of blood and, within 30 minutes, identify whether an animal is infected with T vivax.
Importantly, it doesn’t require electricity or any additional high-tech equipment – factors essential for deployment in resource-limited settings.
Mike Ferguson, regius professor of life sciences at the University of Dundee and who led the research team, said: “Nagana is difficult to diagnose because early symptoms can be easily confused with a myriad of other endemic diseases.
“There is an urgent need for new, inexpensive and simple diagnostics that can be used by vets and farmers to test animals prior to deploying expensive medicines.”
With this in mind, GALVmed – an Edinburgh-based non-governmental organisation that makes livestock vaccines, medicines and diagnostics accessible and affordable to the millions of smallholder farmers in developing world – asked the University of Dundee to help develop a diagnostic for nagana.
With the collaboration of BBI Solutions OEM, which specialises in the development and manufacturing of lateral flow assays in the Dundee MediPark, the prototype diagnostic device was evaluated with more than 100 serum samples from uninfected and T vivax-infected cattle.
The promising results, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, have inspired GALVmed to further investigate this innovative diagnostic test for use in Africa.