Fiber-optic probe diagnoses bacterial lung infections quickly

A fluorescence detection tool that rapidly diagnoses bacterial lung infections could help prevent unnecessary use of antibiotics.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2017 05 170330 Proteus Carb X Web

Doctors currently rely on x-rays and blood tests for diagnosis, but these can be slow and imprecise. Patients are often treated with antibiotics as a precaution, which exposes them to potential side effects.

Recognizing this, University of Edinburgh (Scotland) researchers and colleagues are helping to develop a fluorescence detection tool that rapidly diagnoses bacterial lung infections and, therefore, could help prevent unnecessary use of antibiotics in intensive care units (ICUs). The bedside technology can detect whether harmful bacteria are present within 60 seconds so that patients can be treated with the right medicine quickly.

Related: Infectious disease control with portable CMOS-based diagnostics

The interdisciplinary collaboration, called Proteus, is being led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Bath University, and Heriot-Watt University. It is being supported by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, with additional support from the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council.

Proteus uses chemicals that light up when they attach to specific types of bacterial infection. This fluorescence is detected using fiber-optic tubes that are small enough to be threaded deep inside patients' lungs. The probe, which easily reaches parts of the lungs that existing tools cannot, could revolutionize the way critically ill patients (and others with long-term lung conditions) are assessed and treated. It could also aid understanding of bacterial diseases.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2017 05 170330 Proteus Carb X Web
Some of the technology developed by the Proteus project to detect infection in the lung. (Image credit: University of Edinburgh)

The research team has been initially focused on helping patients with lung infections and ICU patients with suspected pneumonia who are being ventilated to help them breathe.

Further development of the technology has received £2 million from Wellcome Trust and will receive up to £0.9 million ($1.12 million) from CARB-X, a major international initiative to tackle antibiotic resistance co-funded by the U.S. Government and Wellcome.

For more information, please visit www.eid.ed.ac.uk.

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