Low-cost test provides rapid diagnosis for diarrhea-causing infections



In less economically developed countries, the limited availability of healthcare resources poses a significant challenge, resulting in misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatments for individuals suffering from diarrhea-causing infectious diseases. These diseases are the second leading cause of death in children under 5 years old worldwide, resulting in approximately 525,000 child fatalities annually, according to the World Health Organization. While severe dehydration and fluid loss were previously the main causes of diarrhea-related deaths, bacterial and viral infections now cause a growing proportion of them. Unfortunately, traditional diagnostic methods that use stool samples to identify infections are time-consuming and expensive. Consequently, there is an urgent need for improved, cost-effective diagnostic approaches to expedite the detection and characterization of infectious pathogens that cause diarrheal diseases.


IRP research fellow Lichen Xiang, Ph.D., developed a unique tool capable of simultaneously detecting eight different types of diarrhea-causing infectious pathogens. The device is made of chromatography paper printed with wax patterns, which, when folded, create channels through which a liquid sample from the patient can flow. The results can be seen on the bottom layer of the paper where different color changes indicate different pathogens.


This innovative approach, which was granted a U.S. patent in 2023, eliminates the need for a laboratory centrifuge, making the device suitable for instrument-free settings, such as resource-limited areas and field applications. Furthermore, the materials to make the tool are cost-effective and the test itself can be performed rapidly. As a result, the test could greatly benefit patients and healthcare providers involved in infectious disease detection. By reducing the likelihood of misdiagnosis and providing timely and accurate results, this device has the potential to save lives in less economically developed countries.


Henderson WA, Xiang L, Fourie NH, Abey SK, Ferguson EG, Diallo AF, Kenea ND, Kim CH. (2018). Simple lateral flow assays for microbial detection in stool. Anal Methods 10(45): 5358-5363. doi: 10.1039/c8ay01475b.

Weigum SE, Xiang L, Osta E, Li L, López GP. (2016). Hollow silica microspheres for buoyancy-assisted separation of infectious pathogens from stool. J Chromatogr A 1466 (): 29-36. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2016.09.002.

US Patent 2021/0180108 A1: Rapid Nucleic Acids Separation and Sample Preparation Via Hollow-Centered Silica Microsphere

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This page was last updated on Monday, November 27, 2023