Developing a new rapid test for human African trypanosomiasis

Period of Performance: 03/01/2009 - 02/28/2010


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Protein Advances, Inc.
Seattle, WA 98102
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness, is a severe disease caused by protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei. HAT is endemic in 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and there are 300,000 - 500,000 new cases with 66,000 deaths annually. Because this fatal disease is treatable, its control largely relies on accurate diagnosis of infected people. However, currently available diagnostics are either invasive or inadequate in sensitivity and specificity. Proteins with certain repeated pieces, "tandem repeat (TR) domains", have been found in various protozoan parasites including the one causing sleeping sickness. The human body appears to prefer to recognize such proteins with TR domains and we therefore have specific antibodies in our blood when we have been infected. These antibodies could serve as targets for a rapid diagnostic test for the disease. We have recently identified by computational search a number of novel TR proteins in the related trypanosomatid parasites Leishmania infantum and T. cruzi and demonstrated that many of them show promise as diagnostics. This research application is for a proof-of-principal in applying this novel computational approach for developing improved serological tests for T. brucei infection / HAT. Once the work in this application is completed successfully we would in the future test various combinations of the promising antigens from this application. The best antigen combination will be used to produce commercial tests. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: An effective deployable rapid test for African sleeping sickness would greatly aid in the fight against this deadly disease. By discovering and validating candidate antigens we intend to progress toward a commercial prototype for such a test leading to an improvement in global health.