A fast, accurate and life-saving approach to diagnosing sepsis
EU-funded researchers have developed three innovative devices that will help doctors to diagnose sepsis more quickly and with greater precision, save lives and improve patients' chances of recovery from the deadly disease.
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Sepsis is a life-threatening illness triggered by the immune systems overreaction to an infection causing damage to the bodys own organs and tissues. It can be triggered directly by an infection or after medical treatment or surgery, but it is difficult to diagnose, with tests taking as long as 72 hours.
The earlier sepsis is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of a patient making a full recovery without lingering physical or psychological conditions. As well as saving lives and improving treatment, enhanced early diagnosis of sepsis would reduce the burden on public healthcare systems and save several billion euros in European healthcare costs associated with the disease each year.
A series of prototype devices, designed, developed and tested in the EU-funded CE-MICROARRAY project, are an important first step toward improving clinical early diagnosis of sepsis.
The mortality rate in patients admitted to hospital with severe sepsis is as high as 50 % and it remains one of the most prevalent causes of death among hospitalised patients, claiming around 500 000 lives in the EU each year and as many as 20 000 lives worldwide each day, says CE-MICROARRAY coordinator Meez Islam, of Teesside University in the United Kingdom.
Better techniquesThe project pioneered a technique for analysing biological samples called cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy, and developed three prototype devices to test the advantages of the approach with a view to eventual clinical applications.
Absorption spectroscopy is a standard analytical chemistry tool used in medical research to determine the presence of particular molecules by analysing changes in light passing rapidly and repeatedly though biological material such as a blood sample.
The CE-MICROARRAY team improved on this technique with a novel form of microtiter plate a flat plate with many small wells that act like tiny test tubes, which were enhanced with minuscule cavities to intensify the effect of small light changes on the samples.
An innovative microplate reader was also designed in the project for use with standard 96-well microtiter plates, which showed a more than 30-fold increase in sensitivity compared to measurements taken with a conventional reader. The third device was a cavity enhanced imaging microtiter plate reader, capable of making imaging measurements on microarrays a type of lab-on-a-chip device which achieved a six- to eight-fold increase in sensitivity.
Our cavity enhanced microtiter plate had highly reflective dielectric mirrors on the underside and on the cover plate, Islam explains. This led to a self-contained cavity enhanced device which was able to provide a five-fold increase in the sensitivity of measurements compared to a conventional microtiter plate.
In parallel to the development of the cavity-enhanced devices, consortium partners also developed a novel bioassay a biological test for sepsis risk based on a selection of biological indicators identified by experts in the field, Islam says. This approach would further improve and speed up sepsis diagnosis.
The project partners, including a number of SMEs across Europe, are continuing to build on their work in CE-MICROARRAY. Teesside University is involved in an H2020 Innovation Action, GateOne and has worked with another company to develop a low-cost portable prototype for a horizontal cavity using a cuvette with integrated software. Anasyst is currently seeking investment funding to take the GateOne prototype to market while exploring other funding options.