Grant to make whooping cough diagnosis device possible

Grant to make whooping cough diagnosis device possible
MGN Online
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 11:39am

A UTEP professor now has the funds to begin developing a point-of-care device that would detect whooping cough, also known as pertussis, university officials said. 

Delfina C. Domínguez, Ph.D., a professor of clinical laboratory sciences at The University of Texas at El Paso, received the grant from the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science to develop the device, which can be used in schools and doctors' offices.

Domínguez is collaborating with XiuJun (James) Li, Ph.D., assistant professor in UTEP's Department of Chemistry, who is constructing a paper fabricated biochip that will provide a rapid, low-cost and convenient way to diagnose whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory disease. Domínguez will validate the effectiveness of the device using pathogen DNA.

The $5,000 grant will be used to initiate the construction of the device and to obtain clinical samples.

According to Domínguez, the user-friendly technology is expected to allow school nurses to detect pertussis in a student by using a swab from the student's nose. The sample will be placed in a small portable device, which will change color to indicate the presence of the bacteria.

"Whooping cough is hard to diagnose because people think it's just a cough or some type of allergy and they don't seek medical attention," said Domínguez, an infectious disease expert who has been studying pertussis. "This project is different because it's a little piece of paper that uses DNA technology to detect the infection. It's affordable, portable and has lots of advantages, especially for low-resource areas like third world countries, where they don't have access to refrigeration or equipment."

At the moment, pertussis tests can only be conducted in hospitals or laboratories, Domínguez said. Tests involve taking a sample of secretions from the back of the throat through the nose, using a small, flexible swab.

More than 41,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in 2012, the highest number since 1959.

"The incredible thing is that we have a vaccine but the organism is still circulating," Domínguez said.

Domínguez will present her research on July 31 at the ASCLS Annual Meeting in Houston.

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