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Microfluidic device could significantly reduce diagnosis time for urinary tract infections

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A team of researchers from Germany and Ireland have developed a ‘Lab-on-a-Disc’ platform that reduces the detection time of the bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections, from 24 hours to within 70 minutes. Their work was recently published in the journal Biomicrofluidics.

Urinary tract infections can rapidly move from being an ailment to a life-threatening condition, with untreated cases sometimes leading to sepsis, a major killer. Hospital patients often acquire urinary tract infections from infected catheters, so untreated cases can be a huge problem.

The novel device uses of centrifugal force to capture bacteria from urine samples. “Our device works by loading a few microliters of a patient’s urine sample into a tiny chip, which is then rotated with a high angular velocity so that any bacteria is guided by centrifugal force through microfluidic channels to a small chamber where ‘V-cup capture units’ collect it for optical investigation,” explained Ulrich-Christian Schröder, a researcher at Jena University Hospital and Leibniz Institute of Technology (both Germany), and a co-author of the study.

After the bacteria is tapped in the ‘V-cup capture units’, Raman spectroscopy is used to detect Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecalis – two bacterial species known to cause urinary tract infections. This platform enabled the researchers to detect the aforementioned bacteria within 70 minutes, directly from individuals’ urine samples.

“The next step will involve implementing antibiotic susceptibility testing and automating the sample pre-treatment steps,” said Ute Neugebauer, group leader at the Jena University Hospital and Leibniz Institute of Technology. “Our ultimate vision is to apply the concepts behind our device to enable diagnostics devices for use with other bodily fluids.”

The team eventually wishes to develop easy-to-use spectroscopy-based point-of-care medical devices for rapid and reliable diagnosis of bacterial infections. They envision such devices being used by general practitioners to allow them to prescribe the appropriate medication and treatment.

Sources: Device may detect urinary tract infections faster; Schröder UC, Bokleoh F, O’Sullivan et al. Rapid, culture-independent, optical diagnostics of centrifugally captured bacteria from urine samples. Biomicrofluidics 9(4) (2015).

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