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New test to reveal meningitis developed in Northern Ireland

Scientists in Northern Ireland have created a revolutionary technique which could save the lives of children around the world through rapid diagnosis of the killer disease meningitis.

And youngsters from across the province are playing a key role in the advancement of the groundbreaking procedure by taking part in the trial which could result in the diagnostic test being implemented.

Researchers from Belfast Trust have developed a test that can detect meningococcal DNA in samples taken from patients — allowing a diagnosis to be made within two hours.

Currently there is no such test which allows doctors to make a firm diagnosis in such a short space of time and they must rely upon their clinical judgment to decide whether or not a patient requires treatment.

Subsequently, many children admitted to hospital with meningococcal disease are seen by a health care professional in the previous 24 hours without a diagnosis being made.

But researchers at the Belfast Trust have designed a simple test which they believe could be rolled out to hospitals around Northern Ireland.

Dr Derek Fairley, a member of the team that developed the test, said: “It can be very difficult to make a clinical diagnosis of meningitis, particularly in the early stages of the disease, so this test is designed to provide rapid confirmation for doctors.

“We are also looking at how we can implement the test. At the moment it is only being used to confirm a diagnosis but we believe in the long-term it has the potential to save lives. We would like the test to be implemented in A&E departments and paediatric A&Es in Northern Ireland and even across the world.”

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