Low cost method detects infection

14 September 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘…The ability to monitor infection status in real time would enable earlier intervention and improved prognosis.’

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde along with NHS (National Health Service) Ayrshire & Arran, Scotland, have successfully used portable electrochemical sensors to detect infections in clinical samples within 30 minutes. This is significantly quicker than current hospital laboratory testing, which can take at least 48 hours to provide wound infection detection and bacterial identification.

Dressings and swabs were collected from patients with diabetes-related foot ulcers at University Hospital Ayr. The samples were then analysed, at the University of Strathclyde, using a novel sensor which quickly revealed the presence of bacterial infection. The sensors were used to detect Proteus mirabilis, one of the most common bacteria types found in wounds.

The researchers explain that the electrochemical technique, which uses low-cost screen-printed carbon sensors, creates a spectrum which is formed by measuring how current flows through the bacterial layer at a range of frequencies. Changes to these spectra over time can be investigated, providing information about the microbiological content of the sample. Patents have been granted for the method. The work was presented at the World Congress on Electrical Engineering and Computer Systems Science, where it won Best Paper.

The researchers say that Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) are a significant threat to patient welfare leading to increased treatment times and costs. A study commissioned by the Scottish Government, published in June 2021, indicates that 1% of patients develop HAIs costing NHS Scotland more than £46 million each year. The researchers believe that the technology they have developed can be incorporated into a device which monitors wounds in real times and is able to rapidly detect infection.

Aiden Hannah, a biomedical researcher from the University of Strathclyde, who carried out the work commented: ‘The ability of our low-cost sensors to rapidly detect the presence of infection in clinical wound samples highlights their potential for adoption into point-of-care infection monitoring devices. The ability to monitor infection status in real time, would enable earlier intervention and improved prognosis.’

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