July 30 (UPI) — Researchers have developed a new type of three-dimensional “brain on a chip” that can possibly quickly detect tiny quantities of disease-causing bacteria.
The nano-sized “islands,” about one-tenth the thickness of a single human hair, act as a bacterial trap.
The findings were published last week in the journal Small by Wiley Online Library.
At least 2 million people are infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year from these infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bacterial infections, which include pneumonia, meningitis, cellulitis, salmonella and sexually transmitted diseases, have similar symptoms to viral ones. The difference is that they are capable of reproducing. Since it sometimes takes several days to confirm a diagnosis with current tools, infections can grow tremendously.
“Speed is of the essence because some bacterial infections can cause serious health problems and sometimes lead to death,” Dr. Sara Mahshid, an assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at McGill University in Canada, said in a press release. “With a fluorescent microscope, the device we’ve developed can confirm the presence of bacteria in just a few minutes.”
Mahshid, collaborating with colleagues from the University of Toronto, demonstrated that the system is capable of analyzing tiny cultures containing bacteria. They include E. coli and a strain of S. aureus, which is resistant to methicillin, an antibiotic used for treating bacterial infections.
The researchers hope to test the device on clinical samples. They said this chip, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to make, could analyze samples from urine, blood or nasal swabs. And Mahshid said she sees potential of the chip being a common diagnostic tool.
“I hope one day clinicians will use our device to deliver faster diagnostics, start treatment much more quickly and, ultimately, save lives,” Mahshid said.