Media New Atlas reported that a person must be sent to the lab to determine if he or she has a urinary tract infection – which usually takes several days to get results. But now, scientists have created a system that combines smartphones to run in less than 25 minutes.
Developed by a team led by Dr Nuno Reis of the University of Bath in the UK, the set combines cheap plastic strips with tiny passages carved on the surface. Embedded in these microchannels is a reagent that in turn contains certain types of antibodies. When a drop of urine is placed on one of them, the capillary attracts it through the channel. The antibodies will bind to any E. coli present in the urine, keeping the microorganisms in place. Next, add the enzyme. If there is any E. coli trapped in the channel, this causes them (and, in turn, bands) to emit fluorescent colors.
The researchers then used a third-party smartphone camera and an app to analyze the color change and suggest the concentration of E. coli in the urine. According to the university, E. coli accounts for about 80 percent of all bacterial urinary tract infections – that is, the technique is reported to be used to test other types of bacteria.
The researchers believe that once further developed, the microfluidic system could be used in remote or developing countries that cannot perform laboratory-based tests. In addition, they say the setting could help reduce overprescription of antibiotics by seeing faster and easier times whether a patient is actually infected.
The paper on the study was recently published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.