Dengue is prevalent in over 100 tropical and subtropical countries around the world.
Each year, around 390 million dengue infections are reported worldwide. In Malaysia alone, a total of 33,456 dengue cases were reported in 2014 until June 3, an increase of 259% as compared with 9,330 cases for the same period in the previous year. In 2014, 68 deaths due to dengue were recorded, an increase of 325 % compared to 16 deaths in 2013.
While a number of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for dengue are available in the market, none, however, can produce conclusive result at point-of-care. A combined antigen and antibody testing approach is required for dengue confirmation.
By using an optical sensor, ILRG (in collaboration with the University of Ottawa) has demonstrated that dengue can be diagnosed at a higher sensitivity and specificity than the conventional method. ILRG is currently in the process of fabricating a sensor chip that can simultaneously detect different biochemical agents. These biosensing technologies will then be transferred and integrated into a FF. A major challenge in developing a dengue biosensor is the bulky optical set-up. The possibility of miniaturization through fiber technology is being studied by the Group.
Dengue diagnosis at higher accuracy using optical method (bar graph) than conventional method (horizontal lines)
Frost & Sullivan expects the infectious disease diagnostics market to grow at 13.2 percent to reach total revenue of $3,063.2 million by 2016, indicating a promising market for an ideal dengue diagnostic tool. Early dengue diagnosis, however, is difficult because dengue cannot be reliably distinguished from several other febrile illnesses and other closely related flaviviruses (such as Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis and West Nile) due to the absence of its pathognomonic clinical features. While a lot of research has been done on dengue pathogenesis, the results remain obscure and controversial.
Rapid, Point-of-Care Dengue Screening and Diagnostics
Flexilicate, in collaboration with Universiti Malaya and the University of Ottawa, is currently developing a rapid, point-of-care dengue sensor based on surface plasmon interactions. The technology is currently undergoing clinical trials and offers results within one hour.