Researchers in Germany and Ireland have optimized detection time of a urinary tract infection (UTI) with a new device which combines microfluidics and Raman microscopy.
A UTI is an infection which occurs in the urinary tract. Kidney, urethra, bladder and urine can all become affected due to bacteria. Women typically develop UTIs more often than men. UTIs can be harmless and cause minor discomfort or, if the infection travels to the bladder, can become quite severe leading to pain and kidney damage.
Early diagnosis is optimal to avoid serious consequences linked with a UTI. Current methods to detect a UTI involve a urine sample that is examined for bacteria strains to determine the proper mode of action. Although a quick test can be done in a doctor’s office, the results are limited, so samples must be sent out for further analysis to determine the exact cause.
The new device uses centrifugal force – similar to a ride which spins rapidly and forces individuals to the outer walls. The device captures tiny bacteria from a patient’s urine sample and can work with small samples. Ulrich-Christian Schröder, Ph.D. student at the Jena University Hospital and Leibniz Institute of Technology in Germany, said, “Our device works by loading a few microliters 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.”
The device uses Raman spectroscopy – a method which uses the interaction between light and matter to produce ‘unique scattering’ (a molecular fingerprint) to identify bacteria. In pilot tests the research team was able to uncover two common bacteria which cause UTIs – E.coli and enterococcus faecalis – within 70 minutes. Typically a diagnosis of this kind can take 24 hours or longer which can delay treatment.
The researchers hope general practitioners will use this device to offer patients quicker results while they wait, and to begin treatment sooner in order to prevent complications linked with UTIs.
Ute Neugebauer, group leader at the hospital, added, “The next step will involve implementing antibiotic susceptibility testing and automating the sample pre-treatment steps.” She then further explained, “Our ultimate vision is to apply the concepts behind our device to enable diagnostics devices for use with other bodily fluids.”
The findings were published in the journal Biomicrofluidics.