February 21, 2024

RAT style test could save the lives of thousands of newborn babies

A new test, similar to COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, could detect a common infection in expecting mothers within minutes, potentially saving the lives of 150,000 newborns around the world every year.

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria is carried by one in five pregnant women, and GBS infection can cause serious complications, leading to preterm births, stillbirths and neonatal deaths. The good news is the infection, once detected, is easily treatable with standard antibiotics.

RMIT University is part of a consortium that has just won $3 million in funding in the latest Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) round for StrepSure®, a sensor technology that’s anticipated to be able to identify GBS bacteria within minutes.

Northern Health is delighted to partner with RMIT, EXSEN Biotech and Atomo Diagnostics for this important trial.

RMIT has already filed a provisional patent application to protect the key intellectual property underpinning the GBS sensor technology. Within the next three years, the RAT-like technology will undergo large-scale clinical trials and be taken to regulators in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Associate Professor Prahlad Ho, Chair of Northern Health Research Executive Committee and Divisional Director of Diagnostic Services, said Northern Health was proud and excited to be the clinical partner in the project, which will help improve clinical outcomes for babies.

“As one of the busiest healthcare providers in the region, Northern Health is committed to providing the best care for its large volume of clinically and ethnically diverse populations through its research collaborations and partnerships,” he said.

“Northern Health’s clinical partnership, led by Professor Lisa Hui and the Northern Pathology team, will enable the clinical testing of the diagnostic sensor being developed, thereby making it available for wider and equitable use in the community.”

Pictured left to right: Professor Shekhar Kumta, Professor of Surgery, Northern Health, Mr Thomas Hanly, CEO, NexSen, Mr Mark Muzzin,Chairman, NexSen, Associate Professor Prahalad Ho, Chair of Northern Health Research Executive Committee and Divisional Director of Diagnostic Services) and Professor Vipul Bansal, Founding Director, Sir Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility, RMIT University.