Sepsis is an incredibly dangerous condition, typically occurring within hospitals. According to a recent study nearly 20% of all deaths worldwide are caused by sepsis, as it is a disease that quickly gets out of control if not treated early and properly. At present, there is no easy way for clinicians to quickly provide a sepsis diagnosis, so the few days that are spent waiting for lab results often end up wasted, as the results are frequently too late.
Researchers at EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) have now developed a small, easy to use device that can spot two important inflammatory biomarkers associated with sepsis, and it has been successfully tested in a Spanish hospital.
The device detects procalcitonin (PCT) and C‐reactive protein (CRP) in blood serum and is about as accurate as today’s lab tests. But instead of taking about three days, the device can spot the PCT biomarker, for example, within 15 minutes.
The sensor of the device uses a nanoplasmonic imager consisting of a sheet of gold perforated with billions of nano-scale holes. These holes can capture nanoparticles mixed with the blood sample that are attracted to the desired biomarkers.
When light from an LED illuminates this “metasurface,” the beams are concentrated around the holes and the holes containing the captured biomarkers block light from passing. This can be detected using common CMOS light sensors. The technology is so portable and quick to operate that it may one day be used by paramedics to triage patients on the way to the hospital.
The EPFL team believes that the technology should be relatively inexpensive to manufacture and can be made available quickly, although regulatory hurdles and related matters will take their time.
Here’s an animation showing the nano-scale workings of the new detector: