Emergence of quick test follows recent dramatic increase in sexually transmitted infections

Linear Diagnostics – a spin-out from the University of Birmingham – has received funding to refine a point-of-care test for quickly diagnosing gonorrhoea and chlamydia among men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women.

The financing comes from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and will cover essential work to validate and optimise Linear’s platform technology – known as LDx-CTNG. Ultimately, this will enable infection diagnosis from rectal and throat swabs.

The platform technology was invented by Professor Tim Dafforn from the university’s School of Biosciences and uses linear dichroism. This involves a beam of polarised light which detects multiple targets from a single sample.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has noted the rapid increase in multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea, with all confirmed treatment failures except one being pharyngeal infections affecting the throat.

Currently, the most commonly used tests identify DNA from swabs or urine samples need laboratory processing. Therefore, it can be days or weeks between testing and result.

David Coleman, chief executive officer at University of Birmingham Enterprise, believes the breakthrough is significant: “Linear Diagnostics is tackling an important application. STIs have a direct impact on sexual and reproductive health, and although chlamydia and gonorrhoea are curable, they have to be diagnosed first.”

He added: “Even in countries where testing is available, these are expensive lab-based tests which take a number of days to report on. A rapid and easy to use diagnostic test could play a significant part in reducing the knock-on consequences of these STIs globally.”

Brendan Farrell, chairman at Linear Diagnostics, concluded: “For STIs, the rapidity of the testing procedure is key, as patients prefer to get test results quickly and start treatment immediately.  We are aiming to produce a testing platform that will meet the WHO stipulations of being easy to use with minimal training, so people can present for testing and collect their treatment in a single visit.”

Gonorrhoea and chlamydia continue to be major public health concerns. While chlamydia remains the most commonly detected sexually transmitted infection, the UK Health Security Agency recently warned of an increase in gonorrhoea cases.