Framingham, MA – November 13, 2018. Kephera Diagnostics has won a $150,000 Phase I SBIR contract from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a point-of-care test for Taeniasis, the company announced today. The Phase I contract will support the generation of key immunological reagents with which the test will be developed. Successful completion of the first phase will enable Kephera to apply for the second Phase of the contract which will support test development and validation.
Taeniasis is infection with the pork tapeworm Taenia solium. T. solium is a parasite that is passed from pigs to man through consumption of undercooked pork containing cysts of the tapeworm. While the presence of a tapeworm does not tend to produce serious illness in the carrier and may go unnoticed, T. solium is linked to a much more serious infectious disease, cysticercosis. Cysticercosis develops when eggs of the tapeworm, passed from carriers into the environment, are accidentally ingested, usually as a consequence of poor hygiene. The eggs hatch into larvae which can travel to the central nervous system and encyst in the brain, leading to neurological illness often manifested in seizures. If untreated, cysticercosis may be incapacitating or fatal. Fortunately, taeniasis and cysticercosis can be effectively treated by inexpensive drugs.
While less well known in the U.S., cysticercosis is the most common neurological disease of infectious origin worldwide, accounting for about one third of all epilepsy cases in endemic countries. Estimates of the number of people infected globally range from 8 to 50 million according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and other sources, with endemic regions spanning much of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and extending into Europe. The disease has been brought to the U.S. largely through immigrants who acquired it elsewhere, with 221 deaths reported over a 13 year period. The economic burden of cysticercosis, estimated at 2.8 million disability-adjusted life years, underscores its ranking by WHO as one of the top causes of foodborne death and disability worldwide. The medical and economic impact of cysticercosis has led to sustained efforts by WHO aimed at intervention and eventual eradication.
Kephera’s planned point-of-care test is intended for use in identifying tapeworm carriers, enabling treatment to prevent further spread of the disease, and to assess the effects of public health interventions. While sophisticated laboratory tests have been available for T. solium infection, this will be the first point-of-care test. “Cysticercosis is one of the major but more neglected parasitic disease problems worldwide” said Dr. Andrew Levin, Chief Executive Officer of Kephera Diagnostics and Principal Investigator under the contract. “We look forward to working with our CDC colleagues on the development of a test for Taeniasis that will hopefully contribute to containing this insidious infection”.
About Kephera Diagnostics
Kephera Diagnostics is a startup that aims to address the public health challenges of global infectious diseases with new point of care assay technology. Our mission is to promote more effective and more affordable medical treatment through faster, point-of-care diagnosis. We collaborate with a global community of researchers to develop and translate new technologies into accessible products for clinical diagnostics and research applications. Kephera has recently been funded for development of new tests for several infectious diseases of global significance.
Andrew Levin, PhD
Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director