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Lupus smartphone test speeds up diagnosis



A team of researchers in the US has developed a new method for the early diagnosis and monitoring of lupus nephritis at home.

The researchers at the University of Houston used lateral flow test technology to assess lupus nephritis, or inflammation of the kidneys, one of the most severe complications for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

The home test – with results read on a smartphone – has been designed to replace the gold standard for diagnosis of active lupus nephritis, an invasive kidney biopsy.

The test assesses the levels of a protein-coding gene known as ALCA to make a diagnosis.

Chandra Mohan, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Endowed Professor of biomedical engineering, report:

“Urinary ALCAM (uALCAM) has shown high diagnostic accuracy for renal pathology activity in active lupus nephritis.

“The LFA tests for both non-normalised and normalised uALCAM exhibited excellent accuracies in distinguishing active lupus nephritis from healthy controls.”

This test had 86 per cent accuracy for distinguishing active lupus nephritis from all other lupus patients.

By utilising the ALCAM biomarkers discovered by the researchers, a team of scientists created the smartphone-based app and test kit based on the technology underlying home pregnancy tests.

Richard Willson said:

“Periodic monitoring of uALCAM using this easy-to-use LFA test by the patient at home could potentially accelerate early detection of renal involvement or disease flares in lupus patients, and hence reduce morbidity and mortality.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 204,295 Americans have systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease leading to chronic inflammation in multiple organs, including the kidneys.

Nephritis flares are hard to recognise as their symptoms often masquerade as something else.

A sufferer might think they just have a cold or the flu or are tired.

Mohan said:

“A point-of-care testing platform’s importance rests on its potential to empower patients to monitor their health status with convenience, thus allowing for early diagnosis and monitoring of disease progression.

“The LFA represents the most widely used rapid diagnostic POC testing platform.

“This may allow the proactive institution of therapeutics and even preventive strategies in LN, while minimising treatment-related side effects.”

Image: University of Houston

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