No more guesswork (Image: Jim Erickson/Plainpicture)

Universal bug sensor takes guesswork out of diagnosis

06 February 2013 by Nic Fleming

EVERY day, doctors prescribe antibiotics based on an educated guess about which bugs are causing the symptoms they see before them. Sometimes they guess wrong and it can take days or even weeks for tests to identify the true culprits. In the meantime, people are taking ineffective drugs, contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

A solution could come in the shape of a machine capable of identifying all bacteria, viruses and fungi known to cause infectious disease in humans. Tests of the PLEX-ID universal biosensor suggest it is more accurate than the standard method, which involves growing the offending pathogen in a dish and then identifying it by its shape and characteristics.

The device, developed by US pharmaceutical company Abbott, combines and adapts two existing techniques. Microbe samples from fluids such as saliva and blood are processed to isolate the genetic material. Regions of this DNA are selected according to their likely origin and copied, using a common process called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). These DNA fragments are then effectively weighed by passing them through a sophisticated mass spectrometry device.

Read more: Universal bug sensor takes guesswork out of diagnosis – health – 06 February 2013 – New Scientist.

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