Scientists develop faster method to detect harmful bacteria like superbugs

Dangerous bacteria like E coli, staph infection and ever some superbugs are hard to identify. However, US scientists have developed a new test that can identify even the most stubborn bacteria within two hours.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 07, 2017 09:17 IST
Superbugs,Harmful bacteria,E Coli bacteria
Scientists have developed a new test that can identify harmful bacteria like superbugs within two hours. (Shutterstock)

Researchers have developed a faster diagnostic method to detect dangerous bacteria, such as E coli, staph infections and even some superbugs, that cause patients to become sick, an advance that gives physicians a better chance at save their lives.

The test can produce results within two hours using blood, urine, spit, wound, stool or cerebral spine fluid samples from infected patients, researchers said.

Brett Etchebarne, assistant professor at Michigan State University in the US created a molecular diagnostic system that can identify dangerous bacteria such as E coli, staph infections and even some superbugs.

Etchebarne is more than one year into a clinical trial that aims to validate his point-of-care diagnostic test, known as In-Dx, and his preliminary results already look promising.

Today, patients generally have to wait days to get final test results. But the In-Dx testing of urine samples, for example, produces positive results in two hours from start to finish versus the days it can take for equivalent hospital lab tests.

“So far, we have had nearly an 85 per cent accuracy rate in identifying the exact bacteria using my diagnostic system,” said Etchebarne.

“That is from taking and analysing around 300 clinical specimens and right now, urine and wound samples appear to be more accurate and produce faster results,” said Etchebarne.

Some tests can take days to show results. (Satish Bate/HT Photo)

“If doctors were able to quickly single out the specific bacteria that a patient has, then often only one antibiotic would be needed and a much more targeted treatment could be given right away,” Etchebarne added.

“Right now, multiple antibiotics are typically used because doctors do not know what specific infection they have to fight until days later. This way of treating people is what helps create the drug resistance problem,” Etchebarne added.

Sepsis, a serious, life-threatening infection occurring more commonly in hospitalised patients, is one of the medical problems Etchebarne focuses on in his studies.

If not treated properly, septic patients may have only hours to live. Currently, millions of people die each year worldwide partly because a definitive diagnosis of the sepsis-causing bacteria often takes too long, researchers said.

“In-Dx has high sensitivity and specificity for detection of the most common infectious organisms which will help physicians quickly rule in or rule out specific offending bacteria,” Etchebarne said.

“Knowing what your target is early in the fight against sepsis will be an invaluable advantage in helping maximise patient care strategies and outcomes,” said Etchebarne.

Etchebarne’s detection process is relatively simple for both the patient and physician. A sample is collected and concentrated into a smaller amount.

After applying heat, which breaks down the sample cells, it is then placed into the In-Dx testing panel and after 20 minutes of incubation time, the positive sample changes colour, revealing the invading organism.

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First Published: Feb 07, 2017 09:16 IST