Towards a point-of-care strip test to diagnose sickle cell anemia
A rapid test to identify patients with sickle cell disease could have important benefits in low-resource settings. Sickle cell anemia (SCA) affects about 300,000 newborns each year, the majority of whom are born in sub-Saharan Africa. Low-cost therapies are available to treat SCA, but most countries in sub-Saharan Africa lack robust neonatal screening programs needed to identify patients in need of treatment. To address this need, we developed and evaluated a competitive lateral flow assay that identifies patients with SCA (genotype HbSS) in 15 minutes using undiluted whole blood. A small volume of blood (0.5 μL– 3 μL) is mixed with antibody-coated blue latex beads in a tube and applied to the strip. Strips are then placed in a well of running buffer and allowed to run for 10 minutes. Laboratory evaluation with samples containing different proportions of hemoglobin A (HbA) and hemoglobin S (HbS) indicated that the test should enable identification of SCA patients but not persons with sickle cell trait (SCT). We evaluated the test using 41 samples from individuals with SCA, SCT, and normal blood. With visual inspection or quantitative analysis, we found a 98% accuracy when differentiating SCA from normal and SCT samples as a group (90% sensitivity and 100% specificity for identifying SCA). This work demonstrates important steps towards making a lateral flow test for hemoglobinopathies more appropriate for point-of-care use; further work is needed before the test is appropriate for clinical use.