Argentine startup’s one-hour dengue test enters clinical trials

With Latin America experiencing a record-breaking dengue epidemic, the test could facilitate detection in areas with fragile health systems

Argentina's Limay Biosciences develops dengue fever test. Image: Marcelo Kauffman/an Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Credit: Limay/Reuters

Argentine biotechnology startup Limay Biosciences has developed a new dengue test that reports results in one to two hours. Clinical trials will begin next week at the National University of Rosario’s Center for Public Health Technology.

The test uses molecular diagnostics to detect genetic material of any of the four dengue serotype variations from a blood sample during the first 5-7 days of infection.

Intended for laboratory use, the test uses new CRISPR-Cas biotechnology and will be significantly cheaper than existing options. This means it will facilitate testing for dengue fever in areas with meager health budgets and fragile health systems, according to Marcelo Kauffman, founder and chief executive officer of Limay Biosciences.

“We’re comparing investments in laboratory equipment at around US$50,000 versus around US$2,000, which is what ours would cost,” Kauffman said. 

Limay Biosciences’ test offers results within one or two hours. This would allow patients who test positive to receive the necessary medical attention sooner rather than later. According to Kauffman, Argentina is currently experiencing a testing bottleneck, which can cause results to be delayed for up to a week. 

Dengue fever in Argentina

This announcement coincides with the longest and most infectious dengue season in recent history in Argentina. The most recent health ministry data shows there have been 315,942 reported cases of dengue in the country in 2024, compared with just under 80,000 by the same point in 2023.

Although most people who get dengue do not develop symptoms, those who do may experience severe body aches, fever, and skin rashes. During the first 5-7 days of infection, known as the acute phase, patients are at risk of developing a hemorrhagic fever that can lead to death.

“Each year the epidemiological conditions that allow dengue to spread are extending further,” Kauffman told the Herald. “Today, half the global population is at risk of dengue, whereas we used to think of it as limited to the tropics. In Argentina, it now impacts a large part of the country.”

The spread of dengue is determined not only by Argentina’s climate changing in the face of global heating, but also by social factors. In deprived areas with limited access to running water, sewage and waste disposal services, water is more likely to stagnate, creating a fertile breeding ground for the dengue-transmitting Aedes aegypti mosquito.

You may also be interested in: Dr. Arboleda: “Climate change and extreme heat are contributing to dengue”

The substantial increase in dengue cases combined with the expansion of these socio-environmental conditions could transform the fever into an endemic disease, with year-round cases particularly in the north, according to Kauffman.

Since people are more likely to develop severe dengue if they are reinfected, more serious cases and fatalities are expected in the 2024-2025 season.

Kauffman told the Herald that the clinical evaluation period will begin next week. The results obtained using Limay Biosciences’ test will be compared with standard results obtained from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. If all goes as planned, the test could be widely available in 2025.


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