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Low-Cost Point-Of-Care Diagnostic to Expand Access to STI Testing

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Apr 2024

Gonorrhea ranks as the second most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI), with around 82 million global cases in 2020. The infection can lead to severe health consequences like pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain, and infertility. Many patients may not show symptoms, leading to underreported cases and highlighting the need for more accessible, accurate, and cost-effective diagnostic solutions. Now, a new point-of-care test aims to expand access to STI testing by providing affordable, accurate, and convenient diagnosis.

Scout (Santa Clara, CA, USA) is developing the STI Scout test to identify and distinguish between Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ng) and Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct). This new test delivers results in just 30 minutes at a cost expected to be less than half that of current testing methods. STI Scout can use either first void urine samples or vaginal swabs. The test runs on the Scout Hub device and is integrated with the Scout Connect mobile app, which guides users through the testing process, records results, and will eventually link patients to healthcare providers. Future developments aim to include features that could recommend specific treatments for gonorrhea based on antibiotic resistance.

STI Scout runs on the ultra-portable Scout Hub device (Photo courtesy of Scout)
STI Scout runs on the ultra-portable Scout Hub device (Photo courtesy of Scout)

Scout's innovative test is powered by their patented Loop-de-Loop chemistry, an isothermal technology previously validated for highly accurate SARS-CoV-2 detection. This technology is part of Scout's system currently holding FDA Emergency Use Authorization for point-of-care application, with additional over-the-counter (OTC) use pending. CARB-X (Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator) has awarded Scout USD 1 million to demonstrate proof-of-concept and feasibility ahead of developing STI Scout. This funding will support the expansion of Scout's testing menu to offer at-home STI testing, as well as facilitate deployment in point-of-care settings like STI clinics and urgent care centers.

"Our goal is to improve access to accurate diagnostics for everyone. Scout's approach benefits clinicians and patients by providing timely, accurate results which can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of patients. Importantly, Scout also could assist healthcare providers in determining which treatments are appropriate for the patient and can assist combating the spread of antibiotic resistance bacteria" said Cam Ball, PhD, Scout CTO and Co-Founder.

"There is a need for affordable, accurate, and easy-to-use tests that expand access to testing for and proper treatment of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to urgent care centers, STI clinics, and the like", said Erin Duffy, PhD, R&D Chief of CARB-X. "Given the prevalence of gonorrhea globally, and the growing prevalence of drug-resistant gonorrhea, to diagnose quickly and affordably would allow physicians at all levels of the healthcare system to treat rapidly with the most appropriate therapy. The impact of a test like Scout's could be vast."

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