This technology is revolutionizing pathogen detection methods

Researchers at Boston-based Wyss Institute developed a rapid diagnostic assay that can inform physicians within an hour if a patient has a systemic infection and requires hospitalization for aggressive intervention therapy.

The diagnostic assay relies on FcMBL, a genetically engineered pathogen-binding protein previously developed by scientists at Wyss Institute, to diagnose the infections. FcMBL binds to pathogens and pathogen-released fragments by recognizing carbohydrate molecules on their surface.

Currently, blood cultures are the go-to test for detecting blood-borne infections. However, these cultures take days to complete, identify pathogens in less than 30 percent of patients with sudden infections, and cannot detect toxic fragments of dead pathogens, which can fuel inflammatory reactions that lead to sepsis. Biomarkers also fail to differentiate inflammation that stems from non-infectious causes like burns, traumas and surgeries.

In a group of emergency room patients with suspected sepsis, researchers found the assay diagnosed infection within an hour in 85 percent of patients who exhibited clinical symptoms of sepsis. Furthermore, the assay did not falsely predict infection in healthy subjects with inflammation triggered by other causes. Researchers took blood cultures of the same samples, which only detected pathogens in 18 percent of the cases.

Findings over the technology's rapid handling time, high sensitivity and broad specificity of infection-causing pathogens suggests that the FcMBL pathogen detection method holds great potential to diagnose life-threatening infections in both microbiology labs and point-of-care settings.

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