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Strathclyde Uni Develop Low Cost Sensors That Detect Infections

Graham Turner

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Infection detection sensors
In a study that could pave the way for a real time medical device, rapid sensors have been used to detect bacteria commonly found in wounds.

A pioneering method that uses sensitive portable electrochemical sensors can detect infections within half an hour, compared to the 48 hours which is the current expectation.

A study, carried out by the University of Strathclyde and NHS Ayrshire & Arran, seeks to supersede the current methods of detection, which not only take longer, but are considerably more expensive.

In a collaboration with NHS Ayrshire & Arran clinicians, dressings and swabs were collected from patients with diabetes-related foot ulcers at University Hospital Ayr.

These samples were then measured at the University of Strathclyde using the low cost sensor, which revealed that the presence of bacterial infection could be rapidly detected.

The peer reviewed study won Best Paper Award at the annual World Congress on Electrical Engineering and Computer Systems Science in July, with the hope being that the study will serve as a foundation to start using the sensors on actual patients.

Healthcare associated infections (HAI) are a significant threat to patient welfare, resulting in increased treatment times, costs and illness.

A research study commissioned by the Scottish Government published in June which involved Strathclyde suggested 1% of patients develop hospital associated infections (HAIs), costing NHS Scotland more than £46 million annually.

The researchers believe the technology has the potential to be incorporated into a cost-effective real time wound monitoring device able to rapidly detect infection, which could greatly reduce wound infection detection and identification times in clinical settings.


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Aiden Hannah, a biomedical engineering researcher from the University who carried out this work, said: “Whilst a range of other bacteria have been detected using Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy, to the best of our knowledge this is first reported study of real-time Proteus mirabilis detection using a label-free, screen printed carbon electrode.

“The ability of our low cost sensors to rapidly detect the presence of infection in clinical wound samples highlights their potential for adoption into point-of-care infection monitoring devices.

“Being able to monitor infection status in real time would enable earlier intervention and improved prognosis.”

This research is collaborative work with Ohmedics Ltd, a University of Strathclyde spin-out company who are commercialising the bacterial sensor under license.

Strathclyde University’s study was funded by the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Medical Devices and Health Technologies and builds upon previous work funded by Innovate UK. EPSRC and Innovate UK are part of UK Research and Innovation.

Graham Turner

Sub Editor

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