New rapid test can make diagnosis of celiac disease easier and faster

Dec. 3, 2019

Rapid scroll diagnostics, where sample analysis is brought from laboratories to emergency departments and outpatient clinics, is a growing trend in medical diagnostics.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki have developed and patented a new method (Rapid FRET Serodiagnostics, RFS) for faster and simpler detection of infectious and autoimmune diseases. The method is based on a new way of measuring the antibodies produced by the body: molecules that recognize viruses, bacteria or allergens, or autoantibodies produced in autoimmune disease.

The method has already been shown to work, for example, in the rapid diagnosis of mole fever. Now, researchers have explored its applicability in the diagnosis of celiac disease, and the results are promising.

Celiac disease, which affects about one percent of the population, is an autoimmune disease that most often manifests itself as a variety of intestinal symptoms. However, even in affluent countries, more than half of those with celiac disease are not known to have the disease, and it is estimated that less than one in ten celiac disease patients worldwide are diagnosed. Delayed diagnosis means prolonged symptoms and reduced quality of life.

It is recommended that susceptibility testing be carried out on susceptible individuals with unclear bowel syndrome and screening for asymptomatic relatives of celiac disease patients and other autoimmune patients. The screening test measures antibodies specific to celiac blood.

Researchers collected blood samples from about 70 celiac patients at Kuopio University Central Hospital, half of them children and half adults. In addition, samples were collected from healthy controls. Blood samples were analyzed by a new method and the results were compared with two currently used methods.

“The accuracy of the new test already corresponded quite well with the methods used. In the currently prevailing method, the sample has to be transported to a central laboratory, where the test is performed in several stages and takes hours. The new method yields results in less than half an hour by combining sample and reagents, waiting a moment and measuring the result,” says LL Juuso Rusanen, first author of a research article published in PLOS ONE.

Researchers are hoping for a fast, rolling diagnostic method to lower the screening threshold and to help largely identify unidentified celiac disease.

“For the first time, we also demonstrated the applicability of the method to the diagnosis of autoimmune diseases in general. This is a promising result and will inspire us to develop similar tests for other autoimmune diseases,”says Rusanen.

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