Pinkeye test to get Chicago-area trial
Researchers hope to learn if test with benefit public health, keep treatment costs down
Dr. Afifa Mina looks at Ada Rams' eyes last week as she gives the 4-year-old a school physical in Aurora. Mina was not screening for pinkeye with Rams, but Mina will be one of the doctors using the Adeno Detector pinkeye exam kit as part of a clinical trial. (Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune)
Conjunctivitis, better known as pinkeye and most prevalent in children, causes inflammation of the eye, itching, tearing and light sensitivity. It is primarily caused by viruses and bacteria or irritants such as smog or chlorine.
Symptoms include redness in the white of the eye; increased amount of tears; white, yellow or green eye discharge; itchy or burning eyes; increased sensitivity to light; and a gritty feeling in the eye.
Beginning this fall, the six-month clinical trial will monitor data to determine the benefits of the Adeno Detector to public health and to keeping treatment costs down. The tests will be administered in the Aurora office of the Visiting Nurses Association in participation with Rapid Pathogen Screening Inc., a developer of point-of-care diagnostic tests for infectious diseases in Sarasota, Fla. The clinical trials will target about 500 patients with symptoms of conjunctivitis.
Named after one of the viruses associated with conjunctivitis, the Adeno Detector is similar to a pregnancy test kit. A physician extracts tear fluid from a patient's eye and inserts the fluid into a chemical solution.
Within 10 minutes a negative or positive diagnosis will appear for one of the 54 strains of the adenovirus. The existing lab test for conjunctivitis is more extensive and results take several days.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Adeno Detector is best used within seven days of developing a red eye consistent with infectious conjunctivitis.
Viral conjunctivitis usually starts in one eye and can spread to the second eye within days in rapid succession and usually clears up in one to two weeks untreated. Bacterial conjunctivitis often begins in one eye and can also spread to the second eye. These cases last about two to three days and often require prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection.
The rapid availability of test results for conjunctivitis will tell doctors whether a patient needs antibiotics for a bacterial infection, such as when the test is negative, according to Rapid Pathogen Screening, the manufacturer of the Adeno Detector.
"It will save on health costs," said Robert Sambursky, a board-certified ophthalmologist and co-founder of Rapid Pathogen Screening. "We can use this technology to decrease the use of unnecessary antibiotics and reduce costs by reducing the spread of the disease."
Equally important, the speed of the Adeno Detector will help alleviate concerns felt by patients waiting for lab tests, said Linnea Windel, CEO of the Visiting Nurses Association Health Care.
"It is fast and done while the patient is in the clinic," Windel said. "The patient is there and gets accurate treatment, limiting the spread of contagion. When it's not treated accurately, it only gets worse and the patient is referred to a specialist increasing costs down the road."
But at least one Chicago physician was not convinced a faster diagnosis for conjunctivitis was necessary.
"Most conjunctivitis infection is viral and there's no treatment for viral conjunctivitis," said Jonathan Rubenstein, vice chairman and Deutsch Family Professor of Ophthalmology at Rush University Medical Center. "Rapid tests and identification sound nice but (are) not all that useful. Viral conjunctivitis is like a cold. You have to let it run its course."
However, Lori Walsh, a pediatrician at Glenbrook Pediatrics in Glenview and a physician at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said the Adeno Detector would help doctors like her who see a lot of children but are not eye specialists.
"Right now, we have to make clinical judgments about conjunctivitis," Walsh said. "We look at the age of the patient, time of year, what's going on in the community with pinkeye. A test would help. It would be easier for parents to understand the diagnosis."
Area schools also see a benefit with the test kit.
"Pinkeye comes and goes," said Jeff Hildreth, the principal of Anderson Elementary School in St. Charles. "Our kids get it, our teachers get it, I've gotten it. Anything that diagnoses it quicker would help as long as it is not just quick but accurate."