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Assoc Prof Justin Chu and Research Assistants Mr Nyo Min and Ms Regina Lee (left to right) from NUS Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology, have been working on the HFMD salivary test study since 2014.

Using saliva as a medium for the diagnosis of human diseases is now a reality.

Associate Professor Justin Chu and his team from NUS Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology conducted a study on using salivary micro RNA as a diagnostic marker for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in paediatric patients.

In collaboration with the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) A*STAR, KK Women's and Children's Hospital and Taiwan’s Chang Gung University, the team developed a rapid test for detecting HFMD using miRNA in saliva. The team has accurately distinguished HFMD patients from healthy persons by around 90% in the Singapore cohort, and 80% in the Taiwanese cohort. This research was published in EBioMedicine on 10 May 2018.

The main objective of the test kit is to detect HFMD before symptoms show up, and break the transmission chain of the virus by identifying children who may potentially be carrying the virus. Each test kit would cost about $2, and the team hoped to make it convenient for use on a daily basis in childcare centres and even at home.

Assoc Prof Justin Chu and his team would be expanding the research cohort in the next two years to 1000 patients in Vietnam and China before commercialisation.

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Photo of the HFMD test kits used in the research which is expected to cost about $2 each.
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A test kit being used at a childcare centre. Photo credit: Nr Nyo Min

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