Infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and some of the world’s deadliest superbugs, C. difficile and MRSA among them, could soon be detected much earlier by a unique diagnostic test, designed to easily and quickly identify dangerous pathogens. Researchers at McMaster University have developed a new way to detect the smallest traces of metabolites, proteins or fragments of DNA. In essence, the new method can pick up any compound that might signal the presence of infectious disease, be it respiratory or gastrointestinal. The team state that the method allows the medical community to detect targets at levels that are unprecedented. This study is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
The researchers explain that the test has the best sensitivity ever reported for a detection system of this kind, adding that it is as much as 10,000 times more sensitive than other detection systems. Using sophisticated techniques, the current study developed a molecular device made of DNA that can be switched ‘on’ by a specific molecule of their choice, such as a certain type of disease indicator or DNA molecule representing a genome of a virus, an action that leads to a massive, amplified signal which can be easily spotted.
Another important advantage of the new test, state the team, is that the method does not require complicated equipment so tests can be run at room temperature under ordinary conditions. They go on to add that this will be the foundation for the medical community to create future diagnostic tests.
The researchers note that this invention will allow the medical community to detect anything they might be interested in, bacterial contamination or perhaps a protein molecule such as a cancer marker. They state that the method can sensitively detect all of them, and it can do so in a relatively short period of time.
For the future the researchers are currently working to move the test onto a paper surface to create a portable point-of-care test, which would completely eliminate the need for lab instruments, allowing users, such as family physicians, or health workers in the field to run the test.