Low-cost biophotonic device detects antibiotic allergy in less than 30 minutes

Those who are hypersensitive to common antibiotics could soon find help with a low-cost, biophotonic allergy detector.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2016 10 Cobiophad Web

Those who are hypersensitive to common antibiotics like penicillin and amoxicillin could soon find help with a low-cost, biophotonic allergy detector that will be six times faster and 100 times more efficient than current technology, providing more targeted treatment for millions of patients.

Related: 'Lab on a stick' test optically and rapidly detects antibiotic resistance

With existing in vitro allergy detection technology delivering a waiting time of over three hours and that costs just under $33 (€30) per allergen, a team of European researchers running the Horizon 2020 project dubbed COBIOPHAD (Compact Biophotonic Platform for Drug Allergy Diagnosis) aim to improve this with their scanning device that employs the latest photonics technology. Similar in size to a small laptop, the detector—which could be used in hospitals in as little as five years—examines a tiny plasma sample from the patient's blood, producing a result in less than 30 minutes and at a cost of just over $2.50 (€2.40) per allergen.

It works by reading a compact disc-like cartridge with a laser, similar to the way an everyday CD-ROM drive in a computer works. The cartridge contains pre-loaded beta lactam reagents that will recognize a specific immunoglobulin E (IgE; the antibody contained in blood that plays a vital part in manifestation of allergy) and a secondary tracer antibody.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2016 10 Cobiophad Web
Schematic of the COBIOPHAD cartridge being read by a laser. (Image credit: Photonics21)

If there is a positive response when the patient's blood sample is run across the cartridge, the IgE will recognize the antibiotic and the laser will read the reaction product, leading to an unambiguous detection. The intensity of this signal is related to the levels of hypersensitivity within the patient for 10 different targeted beta lactams.

Although similar laser-reading tests exist, the COBIOPHAD device distinguishes itself not only in terms of speed, cost, and size, but also because it has the potential to look at a greater number of samples per disc by testing different drugs at different compartments of the cartridge and avoiding contamination.

"With an improvedin vitro diagnostic (IVD), we offer a much more patient-friendly alternative to the invasive and risky in vivo testing," explains Ian McKay, exploitation manager on the COBIOPHAD project. "Current IVDs, developed with bulky auto-analyzers and based on classical technologies, show poor sensitivity (less than 40%) and detection limits (more than 0.2 kU/L), analyze only five beta-lactam antibiotics, and give false-positive and negative results."

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A basic overview of the photo reader. (Image credit: Photonics21)

But the COBIOPHAD device reaches 80% sensitivity with a detection limit below 0.1 kU/L, McKay says. It deploys an increased multiplexing capability, looking at more samples per disc and examining a greater number of blood lactate concentrations (BLCs) per sample. As a result, he says, the overall system is a hundred times more efficient.

For more information, please visit www.cobiophad.eu.

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