Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have developed a point-of-care diagnostic kit that can detect pathogenic bacteria in patient samples in as little as one hour. The technology is inexpensive and portable. It consists of a small box of basic lab equipment and a smartphone, that can achieve sensitive and specific identification of a variety of pathogenic bacteria. The kit could let clinicians in low-resource environments diagnose a variety of infections, allowing them to prescribe the most appropriate antibiotics quickly and with confidence.
Urinary tract infections are one of the most common infections, and in many cases, they are not particularly serious. However, for certain patients, these types of infections require rapid diagnosis and urgent treatment, to prevent urosepsis, etc. “Urinary tract infections are particularly harmful to pregnant women and can cause miscarriage,” said Lynn Fitzgibbons, a researcher involved in the study. “Thus, there is a medical need for rapid, low-cost, on-site testing – particularly in resource-limited settings.”
This research team used a smartphone camera as a starting point when developing their rapid diagnostic technology. The process involves collecting a patient sample, such as urine, although feces and blood samples can also be analyzed. Containing a small hot plate to heat the sample, the kit allows users to perform a technique called “real-time loop-mediated isothermal amplification,” which sensitively assesses the presence of genetic material from specific pathogenic bacteria. A clinician can use a standard smartphone camera and a freely available app to measure chemical changes in the sample that indicate the presence of specific bacteria.
“The app enables early-stage diagnosis and intervention, which is particularly important in the context of multidrug-resistant pathogens for which treatment options are highly limited,” said Jeffrey Fried, another researcher involved in the study. “Such early treatment also reduces the risk of the emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens.”
The team has been able to produce the equipment for less than $100, meaning it may be affordable for community healthcare workers in poor areas. While the technology is suitable for diagnosing a variety of infections, so far, the team is mostly focused on urinary tract infections.
“This simple test for urinary tract infections can be conducted in a fraction of the time and cost of clinical diagnostics – one hour versus 18 to 28 hours,” said Scott Mahan, a third researcher involved in the study. “We believe that this lab test holds exciting potential to bring state-of-the-art diagnostics within easy reach of non-expert users.”
Study in EBio Medicine: Smartphone-based pathogen diagnosis in urinary sepsis patients…
Via: UC Santa Barbara…