A recent study published in the journal Nature Chemistry reports on the development of a hand-held device that could change the way we do medicine. Instead of having to wait to receive lab results from a sample, which could take days, the device developed by researchers at McMaster University offers a tool to obtain accurate, reliable results for bacterial infections in under an hour.
"It's going to mean that patients can get better treatment, faster results, and avoid serious complications. It can also avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics, which is something that can buy us time in the battle against antimicrobial resistance," says co-corresponding author Leyla Soleymani, who is an associate professor of engineering physics.
"This will give doctors the science to support what they already suspect based on their skills and experience," follows up co-corresponding author Yingfu Li, a professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences.
So far, the device has proven to be effective in diagnosing urinary tract infections; soon, it will also be able to diagnose other bacterial and viral infections (like COVID-19), and may even one day be able to detect cancer biomarkers.
The tool analyzes the specific DNA signatures from a sample of blood, urine, or saliva that is placed on a microchip on the device. It involves electrochemical engineering technology and biochemical technology and is all housed on a device no bigger than a USB.
"Clinicians identified testing delays as a problem that needed to be resolved," says Soleymani. "We wanted to build a system that could give as much information as possible to the physician during the patient's first visit."
"As scientists, we want to enable things," concludes Li, "We are knowledgeable in different scientific and engineering principles, and when you put them together to help people, that's a special feeling. Having the chance to impact society is the reason we all do this work."