When most people get pink eye, they go to the doctor, leave with antibiotics and go on with their lives. The reality is that many of them might not need antibiotics at all, and they might actually be very contagious. This course of action is what Rapid Pathogen Screening is trying to change with its in-office diagnostic test for pink eye.
Pink eye, known formally as conjunctivitis, can actually have three causes: viruses, bacteria and allergens/irritants. But diagnosing the different forms by symptoms alone can present a challenge for doctors. A 2002 survey of general practitioners revealed that as many as 95 percent of them prescribed an antibiotic for pink eye, even though 58 percent of them believed more than half of the cases they saw were caused by a virus and wouldn’t be helped by the antibiotic. Very few of them took a swab sample to be sent to a lab for confirmation, either.
Adenovirus is the most common culprit for viral conjunctivitis and is extremely contagious. It accounts for about one in four cases of pink eye and in some cases can cause complications that lead to light sensitivity, decreased vision, and chronic dry eyes or tearing, said RPS’s CEO Robert Sambursky, an ophthalmologist by training.
RPS’s adenovirus test is designed to identify the virus in about 10 minutes with a tear sample collected during a doctor visit. Identifying adenoviral conjunctivitis could help doctors determine better better treatment plans for patients, potentially reducing the spread of infection and preventing the over-prescription of unnecessary antibiotics, Sambursky said.
Sambursky founded the company in 2004 with his father and brother, all ophthalmologists, using technology from a German biotech company working on detection of explosive and drugs of abuse.
“We use a unique technology called direct sampling micro-filtration,” Sambursky said. “With that you’re able to take a small sample and directly transfer it to a test strip without any dilution or elution. A highly concentrated amount of analyte or antigen is transferred to the strip, which adds sensitivity to the test.”
The test has already received regulatory clearance in the U.S. and Europe and has its own reimbursement code.
Sambursky said the company has spent the past few years working with organizations and companies to get the test into clinical guidelines and to refine a second-generation product that’s easier to use and more sensitive. Meanwhile, some key partnerships have fallen into place this year that will help bring the product to the market, and RPS also secured a contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to continue work on a point-of-care diagnostic test in the case of a biological attack or pandemic event.
In the pipeline, the company has additional tests for infectious and inflammatory conditions that it hopes to release within the next two or three years, Sambursky said. Up to this point, the company has sustained itself on funds raised from angel investors, he added.
RPS currently has about 30 employees at its headquarters and lab in Sarasota, Florida.
[Photo from RPS]
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