Rapid test for STIs to be developed by Birmingham spinout

Doctors will soon be able to diagnose and treat sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) in a single visit, thanks to a rapid test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea developed by University of Birmingham spinout Linear Diagnostics Ltd.

Globally, more than 1 million STIs are contracted every day. The latest UK figures show a 5% increase in diagnoses between 2017 and 2018, due to a large increase in the number of diagnoses for gonorrhoea (26%) and chlamydia (6%).

Rapid and appropriate antibiotic treatment is essential for both infections.  Chlamydia is largely asymptomatic, but can cause infertility in women – a devastating consequence. Meanwhile, gonorrhea has developed antimicrobial resistance to all previously used first line drugs – and the first strain resistant to dual therapy with ceftriaxone plus high-level azithromycin was isolated in England and Australia in 2018.

gonorrhea bacteria illustration

Dr Matt Hicks, CTO and Founder of Linear Diagnostics Limited, said: “Point of care diagnosis means that sexual health clinics can deliver diagnosis and treatment in a single visit. It is critical to break the chain of person-to-person transmission, particularly as drug resistant strains are on the rise, and people who present for testing may not return to the clinic later to collect test results and treatment.”

Linear Diagnostics was founded by researchers from the School of Biosciences at BHP founder member the University of Birmingham, Professor Tim Dafforn and Dr Matt Hicks. The pair aimed to develop diagnostic devices based on patented technologies that use linear dichroism – which uses polarised light to detect the presence of molecules in solution.

The move into sexual health follows £2m funding to further develop the technique to identify key gene sequences in a sample.  The funders expect that the company’s technology will be able to detect multiple genetic targets from a single sample within a 15 minute timescale.  Full details of the investment package can be found here.