Tiny Sensors Could Aid Rapid MRSA Detection

Scientists have developed the test to show whether wounds or lesions are infected with bacteria and if methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is present.

The test, developed at the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with NHS Lothian, works by taking swabs from a wound or sores. These are then analyzed using a strip with electrical sensors that can detect MRSA.

Researchers currently process the swab samples in the laboratory to increase the amount of bacteria present before testing them. They hope to avoid the need for this in the future by improving the strips sensitivity.

Improving the strip's sensitivity would enable scientists to develop a test that could be used outside the laboratory, for example in GP practices or peoples homes.

Detecting bacteria more quickly than compared to conventional tests would also enable more effective drugs to be given to the patient straight away. Currently, laboratory tests to confirm whether MRSA is present in a wound can take a full day using conventional techniques.

The test was developed using swabs from diabetic foot ulcers taken from patients attending NHS Lothians Diabetic Foot Clinic at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Detection of MRSA in these patients is important to prevent the spread of infection, which can lead to the amputation of limbs and increase the risk of mortality.

Edinburgh scientists are using similar technology to monitor signals that bacteria send to each other to spread infections, and chemicals that patients produce that indicate the wounds response to the infecting bacteria. Understanding why bacteria release certain molecules as part of this process will help scientists identify the start of an infection and so treat it promptly.

The development of the test was funded with £2.26 million from Scottish Enterprises large Scale Research and Development Program; it involved input from the University of Edinburghs Division of Pathway Medicine, School of Chemistry, School of Physics and Astronomy and the Scottish Microelectronics Center working with NHS Lothians Diabetic Foot Clinic and Microbiology Department.

 

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