New Medical Device Diagnoses Bacterial Infections in Hours

Researchers at MGH have developed a device that could detect infection-causing pathogens in hours rather than days, leading to point-of-care diagnosis.

Smartphone displaying PAD System / Image: Chen-Han Huang, PhD, and Ki Soo Park, PhD, Center for System Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Smartphone displaying PAD System / Image: Chen-Han Huang, PhD, and Ki Soo Park, PhD, Center for System Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital

According to Ralph Weissleder, MD, PhD and Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School, healthcare-associated infections affect 600,000 patients annually and cost about $100 billion each year. An article from Science News Journal states that current culture-based diagnosis can take days to be reported, but Polarization Anisotropy Diagnosis (PAD) could offer results in less than two hours without all the expensive equipment.

The device extracts bacterial RNA using a disposable cartridge that is then transferred to a plastic cube specific RNA is detected. The cube employs probes that measure responses to light and sends the data to a computer or smartphone. As of May, the team at Massachusetts General Hospital has developed probes that are able to diagnose 35 bacterial species at just $2 a test.

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