Just 30 mins to check if you have dengue

SINGAPORE - A new test using only about three drops of blood will determine in just half an hour or less if you have dengue.

That is the benefit of a new dengue diagnostic kit which produces rapid and reliable results.

The Communicable Disease Centre (CDC) at Tan Tock Seng Hospital will partner clinics in Singapore to roll out this test kit, as part of a move to establish a primary care network to fight infectious diseases.

The centre sent 1,500 letters to general practices last week to invite doctors to come on board, said clinical director Leo Yee Sin.

The test kit, called SD Dengue Duo, can be easily used by doctors or nurses in the clinic. They just need a pinprick of blood from patients, who will be given the result in 20 to 30 minutes.

The CDC will give the kits free to doctors who respond to the letter.

A study led by the CDC this year shows fewer than half of doctors routinely order diagnostic tests when they suspect someone has dengue.

Those who do typically send blood samples to laboratories for tests which can take about a day.

But Dengue Duo takes just a fraction of this time and is "very comparable" in accuracy, said Professor Leo, adding that the CDC does not have a stake in the company.

The CDC tested the kit on 246 adults from October last year to May this year. It found the kit had a sensitivity of 94 per cent and specificity of 92 per cent.

The former measures a test's ability to correctly identify a diseased person, while the latter measures its ability to correctly identify a disease-free person.

The downside of clinical diagnosis is that early dengue symptoms such as fever and muscle aches can be hard to distinguish from other causes, said Prof Leo.

Doctors can be more confident the patient has dengue only from the fourth day, when other signs appear.

The CDC will present its findings on Dengue Duo at the first Singapore International Conference on Dengue and Emerging Diseases, which began yesterday.

Prof Leo is aiming to form a network of GPs around the island to partner the CDC in its research and fight against diseases. "We are getting ourselves ready not only for dengue but perhaps in the future for other infectious diseases as well."

She also wants to spread the message of early diagnosis as "we are beginning to see treatment interventions becoming available".

Two key interventions are being studied in Singapore. Prof Leo hopes GPs who sign on to use Dengue Duo can help identify participants for these studies.

One is a clinical trial of the drug Celgosivir, which could be the world's first cure for dengue. It is still short of 25 participants.

Studies are also being done on antibodies for the two most prevalent types of dengue here.

andreao@sph.com.sg


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