New technology can diagnose infections in minutes

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New technology can diagnose infections in minutes which means patients will be able to receive confirmed diagnosis at the doctor’s office.

The idea of visiting the doctor’s office with symptoms of an illness and leaving with a scientifically confirmed diagnosis is much closer to reality because of new technology developed by researchers at McMaster University.

Engineering, biochemistry and medical researchers from across campus have combined their skills to create a hand-held rapid test for bacterial infections that can produce accurate, reliable results in less than an hour, eliminating the need to send samples to a lab.

Their proof-of-concept research, published today in the journal Nature Chemistry, specifically describes the test’s effectiveness in diagnosing urinary tract infections from real clinical samples. The researchers are adapting the test to detect other forms of bacteria and for the rapid diagnosis of viruses, including Covid-19. They also plan to test its viability for detecting markers of cancer.

“It’s going to mean that patients can get better treatment, faster results and avoid serious complications. It can also avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics, which is something that can buy us time in the battle against antimicrobial resistance,” said Leyla Soleymani, the paper’s co-author.

“This will give doctors the science to support what they already suspect based on their skills and experience,” added co-author Yingfu Li, a professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences.

The new DNA-based technology uses a handheld device similar to a blood-glucose monitor. A microchip analyses a droplet of bodily fluid such as blood, urine or saliva, using molecules that can detect the specific protein signature of an infection. The device, about the size of a USB stick, plugs into a smartphone, which displays the result.

“As scientists, we want to enable things. We are knowledgeable in different scientific and engineering principles, and when you put them together to help people, that’s a special feeling. Having the chance to impact society is the reason we all do this work,” added Li.

The new technology can distinguish strains of the same bacteria that can be treated with antibiotics from others that are resistant to antibiotics, a critical distinction that can help battle the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.


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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.

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