Written by Kevin Wafula
PATH and Standard Diagnostics, Inc., have entered into a commercialization agreement to bring to market a rapid test for the neglected tropical disease onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness.
The agreement paves the way for PATH to transfer the technology to Standard Diagnostics, a global leader in rapid diagnostics, to manufacture and distribute the only antibody test for detection of onchocerciasis designed for use in rural and remote settings.
The test is based on the detection of antibodies to the parasite antigen Ov16, which was identified by scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The test was developed by PATH and can be used by surveillance teams to monitor the progress of disease control and elimination. The lateral strip test requires only a drop of blood from a finger prick, and results are available within 20 minutes. Existing tests involve a more invasive skin snip.
Onchocerciasis is a parasitic disease transmitted to humans through the bites of blackflies and is a major cause of preventable blindness in Africa. Globally, an estimated 180 million people are at risk for infection, and 37 million people are infected. The disease typically affects poor, rural communities near fast moving streams and rivers.
Onchocerciasis is one of the diseases included in the London Declaration, a commitment by endemic countries and international public- and private-sector partners to control or eliminate at least ten of the most devastating neglected tropical diseases in the world by 2020.
Funding to PATH to develop the Ov16 point-of-care test was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In June, PATH was awarded a US$1.8 million supplement from the Gates Foundation to complete the commercialization of the test, facilitate early introduction, and fund operations research to increase access and utilization of the rapid test.