Development of a rapid molecular test for meningococcal disease.

Speeding up diagnosis of meningitis and septicaemia

Scientific version
  • Researchers:
    Dr Colin Goldsmith, Dr Derek Fairley, Dr James McKenna, Dr John Edmund Moore, Dr Paul Jackson, Dr Peter Coyle, Prof Mike Shields
  • Start Date:
    01 January 2006
  • Category:
  • Location:
    Queen's University, Belfast, UK
Development of a rapid molecular test for meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal disease is difficult to diagnose in its early stages but delayed diagnosis reduces the chances that the patient will make a good recovery. Many children who are admitted to hospital with meningococcal disease had been seen by a health care professional in the previous 24 hours without a diagnosis being made. Consequently, health care professionals who are assessing feverish, ill children feel anxious that they may be 'missing' meningitis or septicaemia. Parents of children who have a delayed diagnosis may feel grieved that the diagnosis was not made earlier.

Clearly a reliable rapid diagnostic and screening test that could be used in Emergency Departments and in large primary care centres would be helpful. In this study scientists aim to develop and then clinically validate a rapid qualitative molecular test to detect meningococcal DNA in patient specimens. The test should take less than two hours to perform, allowing rapid confirmation of meningococcal infection.  This research aims to enable screening of feverish patients with non-specific symptoms that could signal early meningococcal disease, reducing delays in diagnosis of this deadly disease, and leading to better outcomes for people affected.