An international team of researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) has developed a new rapid blood test for easier diagnosis of childhood fever.

The team developed and validated a diagnostic approach that can simultaneously detect and differentiate 18 infectious or inflammatory diseases including group B Streptococcus (GBS), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and tuberculosis.

According to ICL’s researchers, the blood test has the potential to deliver results in a fraction of the time taken by current diagnostic tests.

A single sample of blood in the test can help clinicians to diagnose the cause of fever based on the distinctive pattern of genes triggered by the body in response to particular illnesses.

ICL said that a test based on this approach may provide a result in less than 60 minutes, in contrast to the large amount of time taken by existing tests for some conditions.

As per the researchers, their study represents a proof-of-concept for the approach, which is based on gene expression of the patients.

The study’s initial findings, related to the detection and diagnosis of diseases based on patterns of gene expression, were published in the Cell Press Med journal.

The researchers assessed an approach that detected the pattern of a gene expression in blood in response to inflammatory conditions and specific infections.

ICL department of infectious disease senior lecturer and the paper’s co-senior author Myrsini Kaforou said: “This body of work has enabled us to identify the molecular signature of a wide range of diseases based on 161 genes, out of thousands of genes in the human genome.

“By distinguishing between many diseases at the same time within the same test, we have developed a more comprehensive and accurate model that aligns with the way clinicians think about diagnosis.

“With this initial proof-of-concept study, we’ve been able to show that our multi-disease machine-learning diagnostic approach works.”

The researchers said that a functioning test is not currently ready for clinical use. Its RNA transcript panel need to be further modified, tested, and translated into a viable platform or device for regulatory clearance, said ICL.