Need a quick UTI diagnosis? Urine luck

Scientists from McMaster University have developed a rapid test for urinary tract infections, saving time and money for patients and healthcare professionals alike

New technology developed by scientists at Canada’s McMaster University will see patients get quick, accurate, scientifically confirmed diagnoses for UTIs, according to new research published in Nature Chemistry.

A multi-disciplinary effort from engineers, biochemists and medical researchers has produced a new hand-held rapid test that can diagnosis bacterial infections in less than 60 minutes, eliminating the need to send samples to a laboratory.

Proof-of-concept research notes the test effectiveness in identifying and diagnosing UTIs from real clinical samples. It is hoped that the test will soon be able to identify other forms of bacteria, and viruses, including the Covid-19 virus.

There is also potential for diagnosing certain markers of cancer.

The test means that “patients can get better treatment, faster results and avoid serious complications. It can also avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics, which is something that can buy us time in the battle against antimicrobial resistance,” explains Leyla Soleymani, an associate professor of engineering physics and the paper’s co-corresponding author.

The new technology, which is DNA-based, takes the form of a handheld device about the size of a USB stick, like a blood-glucose monitor. It is equipped with a microchip which analyses a droplet of bodily fluid such as blood, urine, or saliva, using molecules that can detect the specific protein signature of an infection.

Co-corresponding author Yingfu Li, a professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences, says that this technology will give doctors the science to support what they already suspect based on their skills and experience.

“As scientists, we want to enable things,” says Li, “We are knowledgeable in different scientific and engineering principles, and when you put them together to help people, that’s a special feeling. Having the chance to impact society is the reason we all do this work.”

Researchers also say that providing immediate results to patients can reduce the spread of infection, improve patients’ quality of life and simplify the work of busy clinicians. The new technology can also identify infections which may be resistant to antibiotics, helping doctors identify what treatment is appropriate for their patient.

Clinicians identified testing delays as a problem that needed to be resolved and wanted to create a test which would give physicians as much information as possible, as quickly as possible.

In time, they hope their technology could be used to identify the virus that causes Covid-19.

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