Every person deserves a chance at a healthy future.
Our mission is to develop a user friendly diagnostic platform that simplifies the way we detect infectious diseases.
What is our mission?
Detectogen's mission is to develop and produce simple, affordable and user friendly diagnostic tests to detect human diseases. Utilizing non-invasive samples such as urine or saliva, these tests can then be used to diagnose a number of serious, but neglected infectious diseases such as leishmaniasis, tuberculosis, and malaria. Ultimately, we want to provide low cost diagnostic tests to foundations and government institutions for use in less developed areas of the world.
What are we working on?
Detectogen is currently working on the development of a urine-based diagnostic test for visceral leishmaniasis (VL). The test detects specific proteins of actively multiplying microorganisms in vivo and thus this test is of particular interest in that it will be highly effective to diagnose active disease. The test can also be used to monitor the efficacy of VL treatment.
Source: World Health Organization
What is Visceral Leishmaniasis?
VL is a serious disease that is endemic in many countries affecting 500,000 people annually and killing more than 50,000.
70% of those killed by the disease are children under the age 15.
In 2015, more than 90% of all new cases of VL occurred in 7 countries: Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
VL is also a serious disease in dogs affecting millions of animals in South America (Brazil) and in Southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece).
VL is caused by stringent intracellular parasites called Leishmania donovani and Leishmania infantum.
Target organs of infection are primarily the liver, the spleen, and the bone marrow.
Patients with VL have an extremely enlarged liver and spleen, which leads to massive ascites (excessive accumulation of liquid in the peritoneal cavity).
Existing therapeutic drugs are toxic, expensive, difficult to administer and do not eliminate all the parasites.
Relapse is frequent after treatment.
There is no human vaccine for VL.
Definitive diagnosis of active VL relies primarily on direct observation or detection of Leishmania parasites on smears or in cultures from either liver, spleen or bone marrow aspirates, which require invasive and risky sampling procedures.
The sensitivity of these current diagnostic tests is in general modest and varies enormously. Conventional serological tests exist but they detect only antibody response to parasite antigens. Therefore, they are not suitable for definitive diagnose of active disease or to monitor the efficacy of VL treatment.
Endemicity of Visceral Leishmanaisis
Source: World Health Organization
Why is urine the specimen of choice?
Targeting pathogen protein antigens that are produced in vivo during disease and eliminated through the urine represents a new idea and strategy in diagnostic development for a variety of infectious diseases.
Urine collection techniques are simple, easy, non-invasive and require inexpensive consumables.
Urine collection is independent of medical facilities, does not require sterile conditions, medical equipment/personnel, and involves minimal sample preparation.
Antigens found in urine are highly stable, which makes them attractive candidates for a diagnostic assay.
A urine-based test can be especially effective for detecting VL in individuals co-infected with HIV, who often have low antibody response to the parasite antigens.
Theoretically, antigens may be detectable in urine before clinical signs of active VL are evident.
Patients with VL
What's happening in the lab?
We identified leishmanial biomarkers excreted in the urine of VL patients using mass spectroscopy. We then characterized these molecules (proteins), raised antibodies against them, and developed an antigen detection capture ELISA to diagnose VL.
A pilot clinical study using the capture ELISA defined that these proteins can be used as powerful biomarkers to diagnose active VL. Tests were performed on 20 urine samples from VL patients from Brazil and yielded positive results in all of them. In contrast, the tests were negative when performed on more than 60 urine samples from healthy subjects, and subjects with non-VL diseases such as Chagas’ disease, cutaneous leishmaniasis, schistosomisis, and tuberculosis. These results strongly indicate a high degree of sensitivity and specificity of the test for the diagnosis of active VL.
We are currently validating our findings using a large panel of urine samples from a number of patients from countries where VL is endemic. DetectoGen is also testing the utility of the capture ELISA to monitor the efficacy of VL treatment. Overall, efficacy of treatment of VL patients is in general monitored clinically and in a number of cases by an invasive diagnostic test (bone marrow or spleen biopsy to detect the parasites in these tissues). For our studies, we are testing the urine of patients collected before the initiation of the therapy, two and four weeks after the initiation of the therapy and finally after the termination of the therapy.
The therapy of VL is usually performed by parenteral administration of a drug called glucantime. The administration of the therapy is performed in the doctor’s office or in a hospital and is given for three weeks. We have preliminary evidence which indicates that the test was positive before the therapy and subsequently yielded a negative result at the end of the successful therapy.
What progress have we made?
In 2010, DetectoGen was awarded an SBIR Phase I grant from the National Institute of Health to establish the foundations of a urine-based antigen detection assay for the diagnosis of Visceral Leishmaniaisis.
Since its inception, DetectoGen has made significant progress in the development of the test. DetectoGen has recently been awarded a Phase II SBIR grant from the NIH to validate the test using a large panel of urine samples obtained through collaborations with scientists and doctors from Switzerland, Kenya, India and Brazil. Detectogen has also been awarded a grant from Massachusetts Life Science Center for the optimization of the test.
What is in our future?
We anticipate that a prototype test will be validated within the next three years. DetectoGen was established to bridge the gap between academic research and the productive biotech sector. We will continue to focus our research on the development of products that can help the rapid and accurate diagnosis of serious and neglected diseases; thus helping doctors to promptly initiate treatment and save lives.
Detectogen’s Laboratory facility is located at 20 Wildlife Drive, North Grafton, MA 01536. If you have any questions about Detectogen please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abeijon C, Alves F, Monnerat S, Mbui J, Viana AG, Almeida RM, Bueno LL, Fujiwara RT, & Campos-Neto A. 2020. Urine-based antigen detection assay for diagnosis of visceral leishmaniasis using monoclonal antibodies specific for six protein biomarkers of Leishmania infantum / Leishmania donovani. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 14(4): e0008246. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0008246
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Abeijon C., Daifalla N., Krautz-Peterson G., Pizzirani S., Beamer G., Frazatti-Gallina N.M., Raw I., & Campos-Neto A. 2016. Immunogenicity in dogs and protection against visceral leishmaniasis induced by a 14kDa Leishmania infantum recombinant polypeptide. Trials Vaccinol. 5:1-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trivac.2015.11.001
Abeijon, C. & Campos-Neto, A. 2013. Potential non-invasive urine-based antigen (protein) detection assay to diagnose active visceral leishmaniasis. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 7(5):e2161.
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