Camera test

New smartphone camera test could speed up diagnosis of urinary tract infections

Biological engineers at the University of Bath have developed a test that could help doctors quickly diagnose urinary tract infections (UTIs) using a smartphone camera.

The process can identify the presence of harmful E. coli bacteria in a urine sample in just 25 minutes.

It works by passing a urine sample over a plastic strip, containing an immobilizing antibody that can recognize E. coli bacterial cells. An enzyme is added which causes a color change which can be picked up by a smartphone camera.

The next step in the process is clinical trials, which will require collaboration with clinical and business partners. In addition, the team will shortly begin to refine the test to allow detection of other bacteria and their concentrations, which will help prescribe correct dosages and avoid overuse of antibiotics.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT

Failure to promptly diagnose UTIs has in many cases led to a blanket prescription of antibiotics, which increases the risk that bacteria will become resistant to treatment.

Besides being faster than existing tests, scientists say the portability of the test could make accurate UTI tests more widely available in developing countries and remote areas.

Described in the newspaper Biosensors and bioelectronics, the test uses antibodies to capture bacterial cells in very thin capillaries inside a plastic strip, detecting and identifying cells optically rather than by the microbiological methods currently in use.

THE BROADER CONTEXT

Meanwhile, U.S. start-up Scanwell Health recently raised $ 3.5 million in seed funding for a smartphone platform for home urinary tract infection screening.

In July of last year, Healthy.io, a Tel Aviv-based startup, announced the deployment of its technology-based Dip UTI test kits to 300 Boots pharmacies in the UK after a pilot project in London. , Sheffield and Cardiff.

ON THE RECORD

Dr Reis said: “Currently, bacterial infections in UTIs are confirmed by microbiological testing of a urine sample. It’s accurate, but it takes time and takes several days. We hope that giving healthcare professionals the ability to rule or rule out certain conditions quickly will allow them to treat patients more quickly and help them make better decisions about prescribing antibiotics.


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