Scientists Say New Test Could Improve Meningitis Diagnosis and Treatment Rates

Scientists are rejoicing over what they say is a new—and more effective—way to diagnose meningitis; which could speed up diagnosis and improve treatment rates.

Early symptom of meningitis and meningococcal disease can resemble the common cold—headache, fever, chills, cough, etc—which can cause health practitioners to overlook or misdiagnose it. Typically, a doctor will not confirm the disease until it evolves to develop a visible rash; unfortunately by the time this has developed, the illness is typically so far along that it is already too late for any effective treatments.

This is important, of course, because the testing standard for meningitis, right now, can take up to two days to get a result. The disease, however, can potentially claim a life in a matter of hours. As a matter of fact, some evidence suggests that without a more efficient testing strategy, many are given treatment when they don’t need it.

For example, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children consultant pediatrician, Mike Shields, comments, “If we suspect a child may have meningococcal septicaemia, we will administer antibiotic treatment straight away. If we wait a few days for the test results to confirm, it may be too late and we risk losing the child.”

A two-year study, however, demonstrates that this new test could be just as accurate as the existing test, but with far quicker results. Researchers are now saying that they need to see how practical the test might be in a standard hospital environment. The new test is called the Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) test.

Indeed, lead Queen’s University researcher Tom Waterfield, who is working along with the Paediatric Emergency Research UK and Ireland network, comments:

“We now need the evidence base to confirm whether it is feasible for clinicians to carry out this test as part of their role before an informed decision can be taken. As part of this study, we will evaluate the feasibility of clinicians using the LAMP test in a hospital setting by assessing any potential barriers and ease of use.”

Overall, the study explains, “Diagnosis of meningococcal disease relies on recognition of clinical signs and symptoms that are notoriously non-specific, variable, and often absent in the early stages of disease.”

At the end of the day, lead researcher Dr. James McKenna notes, “The test saves lives as well as saving precious time for hospital staff, so the next stage is that this test is made readily available to clinicians.”

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