Improving Methods of Malaria Diagnosis and Undergraduate Education Using Sample Preparation Techniques and Lateral Flow Assays
Kantor, Andrew Geoffrey
Lateral flow assays (LFAs) are paper-based, point-of-care (POC) diagnostic tests that have become ubiquitous in healthcare systems because they are inexpensive, rapid, robust, and easy to use. LFAs have been indispensable to infectious disease diagnosis efforts; in particular, LFAs have been used extensively to diagnose malaria, a deadly but treatable infectious disease. Suboptimal sensitivity of LFAs for malaria prevents diagnosis of asymptomatic carriers of malaria. To improve the sensitivity of commercial LFAs for malaria, we developed novel sample preparation methods to enrich malaria biomarkers from infected whole blood specimens. These methods utilized aptamer-functionalized magnetic beads and immobilized metal affinity chromatography (IMAC) magnetic beads to enrich malaria biomarkers Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase (PLDH) and histidine-rich protein 2 (HRP2), respectively, from whole blood. We demonstrated that these sample preparation methods could improve the detection limits of commercial LFAs into the asymptomatic malaria regime. The aforementioned advantages of LFAs render LFAs well-suited to chemistry education contexts as well. To this end, we developed an LFA module for an undergraduate analytical chemistry laboratory class that utilized a hybrid (part face-to-face and part remote) learning format. Over the course of the module, the students ran LFAs in the laboratory and constructed receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves remotely based on the collective class data. The majority of the students indicated that they had significantly improved their understanding of the concepts of LFAs and diagnostic specificity and sensitivity. Moreover, this module demonstrated how incorporating LFAs into undergraduate chemistry courses enriches the curricula by providing the students with a real-world application of analytical chemistry concepts.