Disposable sensor detects wound infections in seconds

February 09, 2016 //By Paul Buckley
Disposable sensor detects wound infections in seconds
A new method for detection of infection in wounds using a disposable electrochemical sensor could take physicians less than a minute to complete, rather than the 24 hours it currently takes to plate bacteria and incubate it overnight.

Researchers at George Washington University (Washington, DC) developed the detection method using an electrochemical detection strategy to identify molecules produced by the bacteria Pseudomonas, which commonly infects chronic wounds. Victoria Shanmugam, M.D. and co-authors Edgar Goluch, Ph.D., DiPietro Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University College of Engineering, and Agnes Chan, Ph.D., assistant professor at the J. Craig Venter Institute, published the method in the journal Wound Repair and Regeneration .

The research team tested the use of an inexpensive, disposable electrochemical sensor that immediately reveals bacteria based on the detection of pyocyanin, a bacterial quorum sensing molecule produced by Pseudomonas. The probe correctly identified the presence of the bacterium 71% of the time and correctly identified absence of the bacterium 57% of the time.

"Being able to detect Pseudomonas and other infectious organisms at the time of the clinic visit will greatly enhance our ability to take care of patients," says Shanmugam, director of the Division of Rheumatology at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences and principal investigator of the WE-HEAL study, a National Institutes of Health-funded study investigating the interplay of the host immune response and wound bed microbiome in patients with chronic wounds. "We would not have to wait for culture results before making a decision about antibiotics, and this would allow us to better tailor therapies for our patients."

After further enhancement and testing, probes harnessing the methodology could potentially provide a way for physicians to detect wound infections at the bedside, allowing physicians to switch from broad-spectrum antibiotics to specific directed therapies sooner, lowering health care costs, minimizing drug resistance, and improving patient care outcomes.

"Infections are a major challenge in medicine, and by using this probe, we were able to harness one of the unique molecules produced by bacteria to detect infection," Shanmugam says. "Through this ongoing collaboration with Dr. Goluch's team of engineers, we plan to continue to refine


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