U of T electronic chip identifies deadly pathogens in minutes

Bio-tech breakthrough, which also spots drug resistance, designed to boost effectiveness of antibiotics.

Comments Off on U of T electronic chip identifies deadly pathogens in minutes June 12, 2013
by Design Engineering Staff

Researchers from the University of Toronto have created an electronic chip that can analyze blood and other clinical samples for infectious bacteria within minutes. In addition, the chip can simultaneously look for many drug resistance markers, allowing rapid and specific identification of infectious agents.

“Overuse of antibiotics is driving the continued emergence of drug-resistant bacteria,” said Dr. Shana Kelley, U of T professor of pharmacy and biochemistry. “A chief reason for use of ineffective or inappropriate antibiotics is the lack of a technology that rapidly offers physicians detailed information about the specific cause of the infection.”

One key to the advance was the design of an integrated circuit that could accommodate a panel of many biomarkers. “The team discovered how to use the liquids in which biological samples are immersed as a ‘switch’ – allowing us to look separately for each biomarker in the sample in turn,” said Dr. Ted Sargent, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto.

Ihor Boszko, director of business development at Xagenic, a Toronto-based in vitro diagnostics company said the breakthrough could have significant practical implications.

“This kind of highly sensitive, enzyme-free electrochemical detection technology will have tremendous utility for near patient clinical diagnostics. Multiplexing of in vitro diagnostic approach adds the capability of simultaneously testing for multiple viruses or bacteria that produce similar clinical symptoms. It also allows for simple and cost effective manufacturing of highly multiplexed electrochemical detectors, which will certainly have a significant impact on the availability of effective diagnostic tools.”