Canadian researchers at McGill University and University of Toronto have come up with a new device for rapid detection of small concentrations of pathogenic bacteria within tiny samples. The technology may help to spot diseases early, and so allow clinicians to better treat their patients while slowing down the spread of infection.
The device consists of tiny, nano-scale rods between which the bacteria gets trapped as a biological fluid runs past them. It was already tried on E. coli and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), with the device detecting the presence of both types of dangerous bacteria within samples as small as a microliter.
Because no markers or probes are used, nor is the bacteria cultured, the results come in in a matter of minutes, an impressive achievement in itself. “Speed is of the essence because some bacterial infections can cause serious health problems and sometimes lead to death,” said Sara Mahshid, Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at McGill, in a statement. “With a fluorescent microscope, the device we’ve developed can confirm the presence of bacteria in just a few minutes. I hope one day clinicians will use our device to deliver faster diagnostics, start treatment much more quickly and, ultimately, save lives.”
The next steps for confirming the practical utility of the technology will involve trying how it works on actual clinical samples against traditional laboratory techniques.