Simultaneous Concentration and Detection
The lateral-flow immunoassay (LFA) is an inexpensive and rapid paper-based assay that can potentially detect infectious disease biomarkers in resource-poor settings. Despite its many advantages that make it suitable for point-of-care diagnosis, LFA is limited by its inferior sensitivity relative to sophisticated laboratory-based assays. Our group previously introduced the use of a micellar aqueous two-phase system (ATPS), comprised of the nonionic Triton X-114 surfactant, to concentrate biomarkers in a sample and enhance their detection with LFA. However, achieving complete phase separation and target concentration using the Triton X-114 system required many hours, and the concentrated sample needed to be manually extracted and applied to LFA. Here, we successfully integrated the concentration and detection steps into a single step that occurs entirely within a portable paper-based diagnostic strip. In a novel approach, we applied the micellar ATPS to a 3-D paper design and effectively reduced the macroscopic phase separation time from 8 h to approximately 3 min. The 3-D design was integrated with LFA to simultaneously concentrate and detect Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase (pLDH), a malaria biomarker, in both phosphate-buffered saline and fetal bovine serum within 20 min at room temperature. Compared to a conventional LFA setup with a pLDH detection limit of 10 ng/μL, our single-step diagnostic successfully detected pLDH at 1.0 ng/μL, demonstrating a 10-fold detection limit improvement and resulting in a sensitive and user-friendly assay that can be used at the point-of-care. The integration of a micellar ATPS and LFA represents a new platform that can improve and promote the use of paper-based diagnostic assays for malaria and other diseases within resource-poor settings.