This new test, developed by chemists and engineers, may be able to detect some infections in under a minute.

Even with a number of safeguards in place and ongoing innovations in the wound care industry, infections continue to prove challenging to patients and caregivers alike. Post-surgical infections are especially problematic. According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 25 patients end up with a hospital-acquired infection. If a patient does have an infection, Drexel University explained he or she is 60 percent more likely to be admitted to the ICU. Infection risk continues even after discharge, as nearly 2 percent of all patients contract an infection while at home continuing their recovery. To better combat growing rates of infection, scientists in Washington, D.C. have unveiled an important new preventative device. 

More effective detection

That tool in question is a diagnostic test and probe developed by a group of doctors from George Washington University, in collaboration with engineers and chemists from Northeastern University College and the J. Craig Venter Institute. Publishing their results in the latest edition of the journal Wound Repair and Regeneration, the collective outlined a test for rapidly detecting infections in wounds. In some cases, the test can take less than a minute; for comparison, the CDC said that tests for some infections, like tuberculosis, can take between 24 and 48 hours.

So, how was the Washington team able to detect infections so quickly? It all boils down to what they’re specifically looking for. Using a relatively inexpensive electrochemical sensor, the team’s test detects the presence of pyocyanin, a specific kind of molecular toxin. According to a 2012 report from PLOS ONE, pyocyanin is released by the bacterial strain pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common infection in both plants and human beings. In a series of experiments, the new test probe accurately predicted the presence of pyocyanin71 percent of the time, and identified its absence in nearly 57 percent of those cases.

Victoria Shanmugam is the study’s lead author and a professor of rheumatology at GWU. In an accompanying press release, she said that this test could have huge implications in developing subsequent wound care regimens.

“Being able to detect pseudomonas and other infectious organisms at the time of the clinic visit will greatly enhance our ability to take care of patients,” she said. “We would not have to wait for culture results before making a decision about antibiotics, and this would allow us to better tailor therapies for our patients.” That could result not only in lower health care costs, but also possibly reduce the presence of drug-resistant bacterial strains.

In the coming months, Shanmugam and the rest of the team hope to further test the probe, finding ways to detect other forms of bacteria beyond pyocyanin and pseudomonas aeruginosa. Eventually, doctors may be able to use the test directly at a patient’s bedside.

When it comes to combating infection, Advanced Tissue can provide all of your dressing and ointment needs.