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Portable Microscope Could Speed Sepsis Detection

A portable microscope, developed as part of a scalable, point-of-care, label-free microarray platform, may offer more rapid detection of sepsis and other infections caused by bacteria, ultimately saving millions of lives each year. The device combines photonics technology, microfluidics and molecular biology to produce sample-to-result processing up to 50 times faster than current testing techniques, which can take as long as 24 hours to achieve similar results.

About the size of a small book, the microscope sends polarized beams of light through birefringent crystals, a cartridge containing a blood drop and an array of receptors. The system detects the interaction of light with the bacteria or proteins that have been captured by the receptors. An analysis of the transmission image provides the physician with information on the type and number of biomarkers present, based on the intensity of the image.

The system has the potential to save money as well as lives, by significantly reducing the amount that is spent each year in Europe and the U.S. on hospital stays and unneeded drugs.

The portable, point-of-care system was designed by researchers from The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona, Spain, working under the umbrella of the European Commission’s Photonics Public Private Partnership. Developed as part of the “Scalable point-of-care and label free microarray platform for rapid detection of sepsis” (RAIS) project, the microscope has the potential to simultaneously detect more than one million biomarkers for the signs of sepsis and other infectious diseases.

Components of the portable platform for rapid detection of sepsis.

Components of the portable platform for rapid detection of sepsis. Courtesy of the Institute of Photonic Sciences (Image credit: ICFO)

“Doctors need a quick, reliable way of detecting sepsis and what stage it has reached,” said Dr. Josselin Pello, senior researcher. “Current methods exist, but they are too slow: they can only look at a couple of parameters at a time and they will not tell the physician what type of bacteria is present that is causing sepsis. A doctor may not therefore prescribe the correct treatment in time.”

“RAIS can simultaneously examine many biomarkers, such as micro-ribonucleic acids or interleukins, and will let you know the bacteria source much earlier, allowing you to choose the correct treatment sooner,” Pello added.

The portable, point-of-care system comes with integrated software and is simple to operate. It may potentially be used in remote areas by junior physicians, and even for self-diagnosis.

“Although we are a long way off this, a self-diagnosis kit would certainly help with conditions like meningitis where an early diagnosis could be the difference between life and death,” said Pello.

Link here for more information about the RAIS project.

Source and copyright: Photonics