Tiny sensors could aid rapid MRSA detection

A simple test to identify MRSA in wounds could identify the superbug quickly and help prevent infection from spreading.

Scientists have developed the test to show whether wounds or lesions are infected with bacteria and if MRSA is present.

Test

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 analysed 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 strip’s sensitivity.

Implications

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 people’s 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.

Use for diabetic patients

The test was developed using swabs from diabetic foot ulcers taken from patients attending NHS Lothian’s 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.

Antibiotic resistance is becoming a pressing issue in modern healthcare and we are in serious danger of entering a post-antibiotic era. Current tests for MRSA tend to be expensive and not very fast. By developing a rapid and cost-effective test, we would know what kind of infection is present straight away, which will improve the chance of success in treating it.

Dr Till Bachmann

University of Edinburgh's Division of Pathway Medicine

Bacteria

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 wound’s 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.

Research behind the test today was presented at the Advances in Biodetection and Biosensors conference in Edinburgh.

Collaboration

The development of the test was funded with £2.26 million from Scottish Enterprise’s large Scale Research and Development Programme,

It involved input from the University of Edinburgh’s Division of Pathway Medicine, School of Chemistry, School of Physics and Astronomy and the Scottish Microelectronics Centre working with NHS Lothian’s Diabetic Foot Clinic and Microbiology Department.

Related links

Accessibility menu