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Innovative Diagnostics: Detecting Different STIs in One Setting

It is estimated that STIs contribute to more than 1 million deaths every year. A large percentage of those fatalities are concentrated in countries lacking proper diagnostic infrastructures. The screening of sexually transmitted infections continues to lag behind technological possibilities. Patients usually have to undergo different tests for distinct pathogens. This takes time, money and probably results in more complications than necessary. Health research institutions worldwide have been looking for ways to streamline and speed up the detection of sexual infections. Finding a solution that could detect a wide array of infections in just one setting would make a huge difference in the world's fight against HPV or HIV. This seems to have been accomplished at the St George's, University of London. The promising breakthrough can change the way how health institutions deal with sexually transmitted infections and help prevent many victims.

Atlas Genetics io systemAtlas Genetics io® system

This technology was developed through a collaboration between several UK research institutions, namely Aquarius Population Health, Atlas Genetics, and Applied Diagnostic Research and Evaluation Unit. The work was financed by the Innovative UK firm, and results from an effort to disseminate new promising technologies in the UK's National Health Services. The new test is very simple: urine samples are collected on small cartridges. These are then processed by a small diagnostics device - the Atlas Genetics io system - and it can purportedly detect sexually transmitted infections as well as some healthcare-acquired infections in a single analysis that takes no more than 30 minutes. This is a huge step forward in infection diagnostics and prevention.

Scientists are very optimistic about the new io system because it has the potential to dramatically rewrite and improve preventive efforts at the social level and in healthcare institutions. The test could be used to rapidly assess how fast a new hospital borne infection is spreading among the patients and staff, helping to contain it quicker. New organizational routines at hospitals could be devised based on epidemiological insights provided by the systemic use of Atlas Genetics’ diagnostic tool. This would be particularly useful against the so-called superbugs.

Developing countries are more susceptible to STIs. This is where the io system would make the most impact. Its small form-factor and presumable affordability mean that people living in impoverished regions could be rapidly screened for multiple infections through ambulatory or community care.

Efforts are currently being made to test the io system in clinical trials within the UK. Researchers will gauge its efficiency and the costs involved in democratizing the system in the UK's healthcare. For now, the goal is to eventually equip healthcare institutions with the new io system, but Atlas Genetics could have its system adopted by other counties in the foreseeable future.