Fever is a cardinal signal of infectious diseases and over one billion episodes are recorded every year globally. On average, a child under five years of age in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), experiences up to six episodes of fever annually. Though most episodes are mild and self-limiting, some can progress to life-threatening disease. In SSA, 50% of the fever-related deaths among children occur at the community level, without access to formal healthcare.
EChiLiBRiST – Enhancing Children’s Lives with Biomarkers for Risk Stratification and Triage, is a consortium of 13 institutions from Europe, Africa and North America convened to develop and clinically validate a quantitative point-of-care test for the measurement of severity biomarkers to improve risk stratification of fever syndromes and thus, enhance child survival. This five-year project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme.
The project consists of two distinct yet complementary workstreams – 1) Design and validation of the device and establishing the exploitation and regulatory pathways; and 2) Clinical trials and sub-studies in three African countries to assess the impact of the introduction of the device for risk stratification purposes, to enhance outcomes, guide management, and save costs.
“Fever is an excellent warning system for clinicians, but it is often challenging to differentiate those fevers caused by life-threatening infections from those caused from self-limited and benign conditions. With the EChiLiBRiST project, we aim to measure severity biomarkers at the patient’s bedside, with the hope to transform fever management globally. With a more targeted focus on those that really require prioritization, we can reduce death, disability, and health care costs,” explains Quique Bassat, ICREA researcher at ISGlobal and the Principal Investigator of the project.
“The technology behind the device is based on magnetic particles for the preconcentration of the biomarkers to achieve high sensitivity, a mandatory feature of such a risk stratification tool. We will use a rapid and quantitative detection method, so that in ten minutes, the clinicians can use the levels of these severity biomarkers to make clinical decisions. It will also be user-friendly and battery-powered, allowing its implementation at the point of care”, explains Isabel Pividori, the Investigator leading the development of the device and group leader at IBB-UAB.
Beyond the clinical and technological rigour of the study design, there are other notable aspects including its interdisciplinary approach to ensure that the new product is compatible for use in low-income settings, and that the data generated can be useful to model and predict impact and cost-saving in different scenarios. Additionally, the project has also committed to train three African graduates from the participating countries (Mozambique, Ethiopia and Gabon) with different disciplinary backgrounds to obtain a PhD.
“Building a common pathway from diagnosis to treatment is of utmost importance, especially in the African context with irregular access to health services,” says Bàrbara Baro, Scientific Coordinator of the project. “EChiLiBRiST holds the potential to reverse child mortality trends from commonly treatable diseases in low-income countries.”