Leptospira interrogans is the causative agent of leptospirosis, a devastating disease endemic to tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. L. interrogans is spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Clinical as well as laboratory diagnosis of leptospirosis is often difficult. The disease presents with a wide variety of flu-like symptoms that mimic other diseases such as influenza, dengue fever, hepatitis and meningitis and specific laboratory tests still remain limited to highly specialized laboratories.

The goal is to develop a rapid, inexpensive and accurate immunoassay for point-of-care diagnosis of leptospirosis. Immunoassays are a proven technology that are commonly used to diagnose infectious diseases and can be designed in a lateral flow immunoassay format to provide near immediate results (10-15 min) without the need for advanced infrastructure or highly trained personnel.

A novel strategy developed by our laboratory, termed In vivo Microbial Antigen Discovery (InMAD), will be used to identify shed/secreted Leptospira antigens in urine collected from patients. InMAD is based on the hypothesis that serum or urine from infected patients contains precisely those antigens that would be targets for immunoassay. Target specific monoclonal antibodies will then be screened and selected based on affinity and specificity for eventual use in a lateral flow immunoassay diagnostic.

Project investigators: David AuCoin, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator)