Urinary tract infections: Lab-on-a-disc detection

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  • Published: Sep 1, 2015
  • Author: David Bradley
  • Channels: Raman
thumbnail image: Urinary tract infections: Lab-on-a-disc detection

On-disc diagnostics

Rapid, culture-independent, optical diagnostics of centrifugally captured bacteria from urine samples

A lab-on-a-disc platform that combines microfluidics technology and Raman microscopy could be used for the earlier detection of urinary tract infection, according to a new study.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are unpleasant, causing uncomfortable symptoms for many people around the world. However, they can also quickly become more than miserable leading to potentially life-threatening sepsis in which the immune system, in an attempt to fight off the infection, inadvertently activates body-wide inflammation that can cause blood clots and internal bleeding. Sepsis, from all causes, is a major killer and accounts for approximately 50 percent of hospital inpatient mortality in the US. Worryingly, hospital patients can acquire a UTI from infected catheters and so this becomes a potentially enormous problem for healthcare workers and in particular in places where hygiene is compromised. Of course, as with many diseases, early diagnosis could save lives and reduce risks.


Now, a team of researchers - Ulrich-Christian Schröder, Frank Bokeloh, Mary O’Sullivan, Uwe Glaser, Katharina Wolf, Wolfgang Pfister, Jürgen Popp, Jens Ducrée, and Ute Neugebauer - in Germany and Ireland have turned to a microfluidics platform to help them accelerate the detection process for the bacteria that cause UTIs, namely Enterococcus faecalis and Escherichia coli. Writing in the journal Biomicrofluidics, the team reports what they refer to as a Lab-on-a-Disc platform that exploits centrifugal force to separate bacteria from a tiny drop of the patient's urine sample.

“Our device works by loading a few microlitres of a patient’s urine sample into a tiny chip, which is then rotated with a high angular velocity so that any bacteria is guided by centrifugal force through microfluidic channels to a small chamber where ‘V-cup capture units’ collect it for optical investigation,” explains team member Schröder, a PhD student at the Jena University Hospital and Leibniz Institute of Technology in Germany. The team, members of which are also based at Dublin City University and Friedrich Schiller University, then uses Raman spectroscopy to obtain a molecular "fingerprint" of the centrifuged sample to identify the specific species present, explains Neugebauer, who is group leader at Jena. In the preliminary work, the researchers could detect the two bacteria most often associated with UTIs and the detection process is possible in just over an hour. This is a significant reduction in the delay from submission of a urine sample to diagnosis, which can usually take a day or more.

Ultimate vision

The team suggests that general practitioners could use the technique in their clinic when a patient first presents with symptoms of a UTI and exclude other causes quickly as well as offer the most appropriate antibiotic prescription very quickly, the same for patients presenting in hospital. The researchers are now working toward the goal of developing an easy-to-use spectroscopy-based point-of-care medical device for fast and reliable diagnostics. “The next step will involve implementing antibiotic susceptibility testing and automating the sample pre-treatment steps,” Neugebauer adds. “Our ultimate vision is to apply the concepts behind our device to enable diagnostics devices for use with other bodily fluids.”

Related Links

Biomicrofluidics 2015, 9, 044118: "Rapid, culture-independent, optical diagnostics of centrifugally captured bacteria from urine samples"

Article by David Bradley

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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