Life-threatening skin and throat infections that are prevalent in Aboriginal communities can now be tested within minutes after an intensive research project rolled out across the Kimberley. Bacterium from Group A Streptococcus, better known as Strep A, can be detected in children six minutes after taking a rapid, point-of-care test. Results for the potentially deadly infection had previously taken five days. Strep A can cause different infections ranging from minor illness to life-threatening diseases if untreated, such as heart and kidney damage. The groundbreaking findings were published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene earlier this month, following a study in remote Indigenous communities in the Kimberley, where one in two children are believed to have a skin infection. The investigation saw 120 youngsters from two schools screened with the new tests, with three quarters of those with sore throat symptoms displaying Strep A bacterium. Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases research fellow Dr Janessa Pickering, of the Telethon Kids Institute, said traditional laboratory methods significantly delayed the delivery of results in remote communities. “The longer the results take, the greater the opportunity for complications to develop and bacteria to spread throughout the community, and this means we urgently need testing methods that provide accurate information as soon as possible,” she said. “As well as being quick and easy to administer, we found the tests were more sensitive than traditional testing methods.” WCVID head of skin health Associate Professor Asha Bowen said improved testing would make a big difference in advising appropriate medical treatment in the future. “With COVID-19 point-of-care testing established in very remote communities ... this year, there is now even greater potential to consider additional tests such as Strep A being made available where needed,” she said.