Zewail City Scientists Developed Affordable Diagnostic Kit for Hepatitis C

With some 150,000 new cases of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections annually, Egypt has the highest prevalence rate in the world– reaching 15% among adults. This costs the healthcare system around $3.8 billion annually, around 1.4% of the country’s GDP.

In an interdisciplinary initiative led by the Center for Genomics (CG) in collaboration with the Center for Materials Science (CMS) at Zewail City for Science and Technology, researchers developed a diagnostic kit for HCV using its specific genomic signature and modified gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) for the direct detection and quantification in clinical samples.

Despite rapid developments in therapies, diagnosis remains the bottleneck in the fight against HCV. Affordable means of viral detection and quantification are important cornerstones in HCV control strategies. Current methods such as PCR are expensive, time consuming and require well-equipped labs.

The team produced an alternative diagnostic method that is cheaper and faster, yielding results in 30 minutes. “This can help us reach millions of people living in rural areas who never had access to existing expensive technologies,” said Prof. Sherif El-Khamisy, Director of CG. “This new method is almost as sensitive as the gold standard real-time PCR at about a tenth of its cost.”

The developed nano-biosensor could readily be adopted for full automation. “We now need to validate the technology for large scale production. We need to invest in the quality control and quality assurance of the production process as we move ahead,” said El-Khamisy.

The nano-biosensor developed also showed a broad utility as a nucleic acid detection technology – which may be adopted for biomarker detection in other disorders such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The team published their findings in Biosensors and Bioelectronics journal, which has an impact factor 7.476, on November 4, 2016.

The research team consists of Dr. Sherif Shawky, postdoctoral fellow at CG, Ahmed Awad, and Wala Allam, Ph.D. students at CG, Dr. Mohamed AlKordi, co-director of CMS, and led by Prof. El-Khamisy, director of CG.