New diagnostic test for meningitis

6th September 2017

We’ve welcomed a new test which can identify potential cases of meningococcal meningitis more quickly than conventional laboratory techniques

New diagnostic test for meningitis
The new diagnostic test - known as Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) - has been assessed in a two year study alongside the standard NHS tests.

The tool, created by experts at Queen's University Belfast and The Belfast Trust, can provide results within an hour. Standard tests for meningococcal disease can take up to 48 hours for results to come back.

Our chief executive, Dr Tom Nutt, said: "As we know, meningitis is a brutal disease that strikes rapidly and can leave devastation in its wake. Of those who survive many will be left with permanent and lifelong disabilities.”

Improve outcomes

"We know rapid diagnosis and treatment improve the outcomes for those who contract this disease. As such we welcome all developments that will allow for quicker and more accurate diagnosis and the correct treatment to start promptly.  This new test also has the potential to prevent unnecessary anxiety for families worried about meningitis. We will follow the development of this test in clinical situations with great interest.”

Welcomed by supporter

Our supporters Jo and Chris Sloan and their daughter Sophia were interviewed for the BBC in Northern Ireland about the test. Sophia contracted pneumococcal meningitis and septicaemia at just three months in December 2014. It took nearly two days for Sophia’s meningitis to be confirmed.

Jo told the BBC  about the trauma and emotional distress your brain goes through when you’re trying to second guess what’s happening whilst waiting for a diagnosis. The new test would be ‘amazing’ she said.

Husband Chris added: “Putting your finger on a disease and knowing what you’re dealing with allows you to try and deal with it. When you’re dealing with too many variables and unknowns your mind goes off in tangents.”

See the full interview.

Saving lives

The researchers said that the test could prevent children with meningococcal disease being wrongly sent home - potentially saving dozens of lives every year. It could also prevent patients being admitted for treatment unnecessarily.

Researchers said the LAMP diagnostic tool proved to be as efficient as the standard test in returning accurate diagnosis.

If medics suspect a child may have meningococcal septicaemia they administer antibiotic treatment straight away. A study by the organisations found that of 105 babies and children treated for suspected meningococcal septicaemia, only a third were later found to be infected, meaning two-thirds received treatment unnecessarily.

Unnecessary medication

Dr James Mc Kenna, clinical scientist and lead researcher in developing the LAMP test said, "The LAMP diagnosis could significantly reduce the number of patients taking medication unnecessarily."

Dr Tom Waterfield is leading a new study at Queen's University in collaboration with the Paediatric Emergency Research UK and Ireland to assess the practicality of testing being undertaken by a clinician in a hospital environment.

He said: "We know that scientifically the test is effective but 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."