Super Microchip can Diagnose Infections in Minutes

The new Microchip (Credit: University of Toronto)
Researchers from the University of Toronto developed an electronic chip that can analyze blood samples and for signs of infectious bacteria with record-breaking speed.
Current lab tests that can identify specific life-threatening bacterial infections can take days and even longer to pinpoint the exact antibiotic that can help cure the infection. A research team from the University of Toronto including researchers from Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering  created an electronic chip that can analyze blood and other clinical samples for infectious bacteria with in a significantly shorter period of time.
The new microchip developed by the team can identify the specific pathogen in a matter of minutes, and looks for many different types bacteria and drug resistance markers in parallel, allowing for a quick and specific identification of infectious agents.
Shana Kelley who worked as part of the research team noted that "Overuse of antibiotics is driving the continued emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. A chief reason for use of ineffective or inappropriate antibiotics is the lack of a technology that rapidly offers physicians detailed information about the specific cause of the infection".
The integrated circuit developed by the researchers can detect bacteria at very low concentrations including those found in patients with urinary tract infection. During testing the chip reported accurately on the type of bacteria found in a sample, along with whether the pathogen found possessed drug resistance properties.
The medical industry is already interested in the new technology. According to Ihor Boszko, Director of Business Development at Xagenic, a Toronto-based in vitro diagnostics company said recently that the breakthrough could have significant practical implications – "This kind of highly sensitive, enzyme-free electrochemical detection technology will have tremendous utility for near patient clinical diagnostics. Multiplexing of in vitro diagnostic approach adds the capability of simultaneously testing for multiple viruses or bacteria that produce similar clinical symptoms. It also allows for simple and cost effective manufacturing of highly multiplexed electrochemical detectors, which will certainly have a significant impact on the availability of effective diagnostic tools."
More information on the new microchip can be found on the University of Toronto website.