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Scientists develop device to detect bacteria in minutes

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A team at Penn State University developed a new device to detect bacteria within minutes instead of days. It was described in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

Co-developed by Pak Kin Wong, a professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, the device uses microtechnology to trap single bacteria cells that can then be viewed under an electron microscope.

The approach allows clinicians to determine in as little as 30 minutes whether bacteria is present and its susceptibility to drug treatment, as opposed to the three-to-five days such lab work currently takes.”We currently prescribe antibiotics even when there are no bacteria present,” said Prof. Wong to AFP.

The researchers’ paper said that in addition to being able to detect whether bacteria is present, the device can begin to classify the type by determining whether the cells are spherical, rod-shaped, or spiral.

According to Prof Wong, the device determines existence but not what type of bacteria it is. “What we’re working on is a complementary molecular approach such that we can ID the species,” he said.

After finding the presence of bacteria, the sample is exposed to antibiotics to determine whether the strain is resistant, in which case antibiotic intervention would prove ineffective.

“Urinary tract infections are the most common bacterial infections,” said Wong.

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