Queen's University Belfast

Rapid test for meningitis

A rapid test for meningitis that speeds up diagnosis and has the potential to save lives has been developed by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast.

Meningitis can kill in hours, yet traditional laboratory tests to diagnose the disease can take up to 48 hours. Speedy treatment is vital because the infection can quickly overwhelm the body, and symptoms may not be obvious until it is dangerously advanced. This means that doctors often choose to administer antibiotics as a precautionary measure despite fears that the overuse of antibiotics is leading to drug resistance.

However, on rare occasions cases can be missed, which is where the LAMP (Loop mediated isothermal AMPlification) test on blood, spinal fluid or nasal swab samples could help. These tests give accurate results within an hour, meaning treatment can be offered quickly and only when needed to fight life-threatening infection and avoid unnecessary costs. Both tests have now been commercialised by HiberGene Diagnostics Ltd. as diagnostic tests approved for human use.

Dr Tom Waterfield from Queen's University said: "With the best will in the world you can still miss cases if a child looks quite well and you think it is viral rather than bacterial.

"The test could also provide reassurance earlier to anxious parents that their sick child is getting the right treatment. Two days is a long time to wait for a confirmed diagnosis."

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