'New method can quickly, accurately detect infections'

Scientists have developed a method that can quickly and accurately detect whether a person has been infected with harmful bacteria or other pathogens.

The method developed by researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in the US shows the exact severity of infection in a person.

They created molecules that bind to leukocyte enzymes and produce an electrical current to signal the presence of an infection.

The molecules are housed on a testing strip. After being contacted with infected bodily fluids, the strip is connected to a computer monitor that displays a clear range of electrochemical responses demonstrating the severity of an infection.

The most common method of testing for infection in medical facilities is currently a strip that turns a certain colour when infected fluids come into contact with it. "The problem with this method is that it is imprecise," said Waldemar Gorski, a professor at UTSA.

"The human eye is forced to judge the level of infection based on the hue and deepness of a colour. It is difficult to make an accurate call based on that," Gorski said. Roughly a third of samples cannot be tested because the fluids contain blood or are too opaque, researchers said.

Other methods include microbiology or examining body fluid samples under a microscope and counting white blood cells, also known as leukocytes, which are an indicator of an infection.

However, these can be slow processes and require more highly trained personnel. "The signs and symptoms people demonstrate are not always reflective of the level of the infection they have," said Stanton McHardy, an associate professor at UTSA. "The new device could very easily show just how serious an infection is and make diagnosis a much quicker process, possibly preventing a more serious illness," said McHardy.

Gorski believes the method could be especially useful to people who have just undergone surgery, as it could determine definitively whether they have an infection from the procedure before it worsens.


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