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Researchers Create Non-stick Coating That Repels External Molecules, Even Viruses and Bacteria; Clinical Laboratories May Soon Find It Easier to Keep Surfaces Free from Bacterial Contamination

Hospital-acquired infections could finally be prevented and no longer threaten the health of patients and hospital workers

In what may be the most significant development in healthcare’s fight against hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, have developed an ultra-repellent coating that prevents anything—including viruses and bacteria—from adhering to surfaces covered in the material. This fascinating discovery may have great value for both microbiologists and hospital infection control teams, as well as the clinical laboratory and food service industries. 

The self-cleaning material has been proven to repel even the deadliest forms of antibiotic resistant (ABR) superbugs and viruses. This ultimate non-stick coating is a chemically treated form of transparent plastic wrap which can be adhered to surfaces prone to gathering germs, such as door handles, railings, and intravenous therapy (IV) stands.

“We developed the wrap to address the major threat that is posed by multi-drug resistant bacteria,” Leyla Soleymani, PhD, Associate Professor at McMaster University and one of the leaders of the study, told CNN. “Given the limited treatment options for these bugs, it is key to reduce their spread from one person to another.”

The researchers tested their revolutionary coating using two potentially deadly forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria: Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Pseudomonas.

In their study, published in ACS Nano, a journal of the American Chemical Society, titled, “Flexible Hierarchical Wraps Repel Drug-Resistant Gram-Negative and Positive Bacteria,” the researchers stated their material was effective at repelling MRSA 87% of the time and at repelling Pseudomonas 84% of the time. The wrapped surfaces also remained free of Escherichia coli (E. coli) after being exposed to the bacteria.

Bacteria-Resistant Wrap Could Greatly Diminish Threat of Hospital-Acquired Infections

This is a significant breakthrough. Dark Daily has covered the growing danger of hospital-acquired infections in numerous e-briefings, including “Could Proximity of Toilets to Sinks in Medical Intensive Care Units Contribute to Hospital-Acquired Infections?” That report covered research by the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) which found that sinks located near toilets in patient rooms were four times more likely to have Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC)-producing organisms in their drains than sinks that were located farther away from toilets.

According to research published in the peer-reviewed Southern Medical Journal, “KPC-producing bacteria are a group of emerging highly drug-resistant Gram-negative bacilli causing infections associated with significant morbidity and mortality.”

Were those surfaces covered in this new bacterial-resistant coating, life-threatening infections in hospital ICUs could be prevented.

Taking Inspiration from Nature

In designing their new anti-microbial wrap, McMaster researchers took their inspiration from natural lotus leaves, which are effectively water-resistant and self-cleaning thanks to microscopic wrinkles that repel external molecules. Substances that come in contact with surfaces covered in the new non-stick coating—such as a water, blood, or germs—simply bounce off. They do not adhere to the material.

The “shrink-wrap” is flexible, durable, and inexpensive to manufacture. And, the researchers hope to locate a commercial partner to develop useful applications for their discovery. 

“We’re structurally tuning that plastic,” Soleymani told SciTechDaily. “This material gives us something that can be applied to all kinds of things.”

In the video above, Leyla Soleymani, PhD, Associate Professor at McMaster University, explains how “The new plastic surface—a treated form of conventional transparent wrap—can be shrink-wrapped onto door handles, railings, IV stands, and other surfaces that can be magnets for bacteria such as MRSA and C. difficile. This may be technology that has great value to clinical laboratories and microbiology laboratories. Click here to watch the video. (Image and video copyright: McMaster University/YouTube.)

Industries Outside of Healthcare Also Would Benefit

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 2.8 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection in the US each year. More than 35,000 people die from these infections, making it one of the biggest health challenges of our time and a threat that needs to be eradicated. This innovative plastic coating could help alleviate these types of infections.

And it’s not just for healthcare. The researchers said the coating could be beneficial to the food industry as well. The plastic surface could help curtail the accidental transfer of bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria in food preparation and packaging, according to the published study.

“We can see this technology being used in all kinds of institutional and domestic settings,” Tohid Didar, PhD, Assistant Professor at McMaster University and co-author of the study, told SciTechDaily. “As the world confronts the crisis of anti-microbial resistance, we hope it will become an important part of the anti-bacterial toolbox.”

The research was led by Didar and Soleymani in collaboration with scientists from McMaster’s Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) and the McMaster-based Canadian Center for Electron Microscopy.

Clinical laboratories also are tasked with preventing the transference of dangerous bacteria to patients and lab personnel. Constant diligence in application of cleaning protocols is key. If this new anti-bacterial shrink wrap becomes widely available, medical laboratory managers and microbiologists will have a new tool to fight bacterial contamination.

—JP Schlingman

Related Information:

Researchers Create Ultimate Non-Stick Coating That Repels Everything—Even Viruses and Bacteria

Flexible Hierarchical Wraps Repel Drug-Resistant Gram-Negative and Positive Bacteria

Scientists Develop Superbug-resistant, Self-cleaning Plastic Wrap

Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States

Surface Allows Self-Cleaning

Repel Wraps: Ultimate Non-Stick Coating Repels Everything – Even Viruses and Bacteria

Could Proximity of Toilets to Sinks in Medical Intensive Care Units Contribute to Hospital-Acquired Infections?

Leapfrog Group Report Shows Hospitals Failing to Eliminate Hospital-Acquired Infections; Medical Laboratories Can Help Providers’ Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs

Collaboration between Pathologists, Medical Laboratories, and Hospital Staff Substantially Reduced Hospital-Acquired Infections, AHRQ Reports

Doctors in India Sound Alarm: CRE Infections are Becoming Common in India and Killing Two-Thirds of Patients Who Contract Them While Undergoing Cancer Treatment!

As infectious bacteria become even more resistant to antibiotics, chronic disease patients with weakened immune systems are in particular danger

Microbiologists and clinical laboratory managers in the United States may find it useful to learn that exceptionally virulent strains of bacteria are causing increasing numbers of cancer patient deaths in India. Given the speed with which infectious diseases spread throughout the world, it’s not surprising that deaths due to similar hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are increasing in the US as well.

Recent news reporting indicates that an ever-growing number of cancer patients in the world’s second most populous nation are struggling to survive these infections while undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments for their cancers.

In some ways, this situation is the result of more powerful antibiotics. Today’s modern antibiotics help physicians, pathologists, and clinical laboratories protect patients from infectious disease. However, it’s a tragic fact that those same powerful drugs are making patients with chronic diseases, such as cancer, more susceptible to death from HAIs caused by bacteria that are becoming increasingly resistant to those same antibiotics.

India is a prime example of that devastating dichotomy. Bloomberg reported that a study conducted by Abdul Ghafur, MD, an infectious disease physician with Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, India, et al, concluded that “Almost two-thirds of cancer patients with a carbapenem-resistant infection are dead within four weeks, vs. a 28-day mortality rate of 38% in patients whose infections are curable.”

This news should serve as an alert to pathologists, microbiologists, and clinical laboratory leaders in the US as these same superbugs—which resist not only antibiotics but other drugs as well—may become more prevalent in this country.

 ‘We Don’t Know What to Do’

The dire challenge facing India’s cancer patients is due to escalating bloodstream infections associated with carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a particularly deadly bacteria that has become resistant to even the most potent carbapenem antibiotics, generally considered drugs of last resort for dealing with life-threatening infections.

Lately, the problem has only escalated. “We are facing a difficult scenario—to give chemotherapy and cure the cancer and get a drug-resistant infection and the patient dying of infections.” Ghafur told Bloomberg. “We don’t know what to do. The world doesn’t know what to do in this scenario.”

Ghafur added, “However wonderful the developments in the field of oncology, they are not going to be useful, because we know cancer patients die of infections.”

Abdul Ghafur, MD (above), an infectious disease physician with Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, India, told The Better India that, “Indians, are obsessed with antibiotics and believe that they can cure almost all infections, including viral infections! Moreover, at least half of the prescriptions by Indian doctors include an antibiotic. Sadly, the public believes that whenever we get cold and cough, we need to swallow antibiotics for three days along with paracetamol [acetaminophen]! This is a myth that urgently needs to disappear!” (Photo copyright: Longitude Prize.)

The problem in India, Bloomberg reports, is exacerbated by contaminated food and water. “Germs acquired through ingesting contaminated food and water become part of the normal gut microbiome, but they can turn deadly if they escape the bowel and infect the urinary tract, blood, and other tissues.” And chemotherapy patients, who likely have weakened digestive tracts, suffer most when the deadly germs reach the urinary tract, blood, and surrounding tissues.

“Ten years ago, carbapenem-resistant superbug infections were rare. Now, infections such as carbapenem-resistant klebsiella bloodstream infection, urinary infection, pneumonia, and surgical site infections are a day-to-day problem in our (Indian) hospitals. Even healthy adults in the community may carry these bacteria in their gut in Indian metropolitan cities; up to 5% of people carry these superbugs in their intestines,” Ghafur told The Better India.

What are CRE and Why Are They So Deadly?

CRE are part of the enterobacteriaceae bacterial family, which also includes Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Klebsiella pneumoniae. CRE, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are considered “antibiotic-resistant” because antibiotic agents known as carbapenems are becoming increasing less effective at treating enterobacteriaceae.

In fact, a 2018 study conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, which was published in the Journal of Global Infectious Diseases (JGID), found that bloodstream infections due to CRE were the “leading cause” of illness and death in patients with hematological malignancies, such as leukemia.

“These patients receive chemotherapy during treatment, which lead to severe mucositis of gastrointestinal tract and myelosuppression. It was hypothesized that the gut colonizer translocate into blood circulation causing [bloodstream infection],” the AIIMS paper states.

US Cases of C. auris Also Linked to CRE

Deaths in the US involving the fungus Candida auris (C. auris) have been linked to CRE as well. And, people who were hospitalized outside the US may be at particular risk.

The CDC reported on a Maryland resident who was hospitalized in Kenya with a carbapenemase-producing infection, which was later diagnosed as C. auris. The CDC describes C. auris as “an emerging drug-resistant yeast of high public concern … C auris frequently co-occurs with carbapenemase-producing organisms like CRE.”

The graphic above, developed by the NYT from CDC data, shows that Candida auris is found globally and not restricted to poor or resource-strapped nations. “The fungus seems to have emerged in several locations at once, not from a single source,” the NYT reports. This means clinical laboratories can expect to be processing more tests to identify the deadly fungus. (Graphic copyright: New York Times/CDC.)

Drug-resistant germs are a public health threat that has grown beyond overuse of antibiotics to an “explosion of resistant fungi,” reported the New York Times (NYT).

“It’s an enormous problem. We depend on being able to treat those patients with antifungals,” Matthew Fisher, PhD, Professor of Fungal Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London, told the NYT

The NYT article states that “Nearly half of patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days, according to the CDC. Yet the world’s experts have not nailed down where it came from in the first place.”

Cases of C. auris in the US are showing up in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois and is arriving on travelers from many countries, including India, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.  

“It is a creature from the black lagoon,” Tom Chiller, MD, Chief of the Mycotic Diseases Branch at the CDC told the NYT. “It bubbled up and now it is everywhere.”

Since antibiotics are used heavily in agriculture and farming worldwide, the numbers of antibiotic-resistant infections will likely increase. Things may get worse, before they get better.

Pathologists, microbiologists, oncologists, and clinical laboratories involved in caring for patients with antibiotic-resistant infections will want to fully understand the dangers involved, not just to patients, but to healthcare workers as well.

—Donna Marie Pocius

Related Information:

Superbugs Deadlier than Cancer Put Chemotherapy into Question

Taking Antibiotics for a Viral Infection? A Doc Shares Why You Should Think Twice

Healthcare-Associated Infections: CRE

Rectal Carriage of Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae: A Menace to Highly Vulnerable Patients

Clinical Study of Carbapenem Sensitive and Resistant Gram-negative Bacteria in Neutropenic and Nonneutropenic Patients: The First Series from India

Candida Auris in a U.S. Patient with Carbapenemase-Producing Organisms and Recent Hospitalization in Kenya

Deadly Germs, Lost Cures: A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy

University of Edinburgh Study Finds Antimicrobial Bacteria in Hospital Wastewater in Research That Has Implications for Microbiologists

Pathologists and Clinical Laboratories to Play Critical Role in Developing New Tools to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

Lurking Below: NIH Study Reveals Surprising New Source of Antibiotic Resistance That Will Interest Microbiologists and Medical Laboratory Scientists

Scientists in United Kingdom Manipulate DNA to Create a Synthetic Bacteria That Could Be Immune to Infections

Use of synthetic genetics to replicate an infectious disease agent is a scientific accomplishment that many microbiologists and clinical laboratory managers expected would happen

Microbiologists and infectious disease doctors are quite familiar with Escherichia coli (E. coli). The bacterium has caused much human sickness and even death around the globe, and its antibiotic resistant strains are becoming increasingly difficult to eradicate.

Now, scientists in England have created a synthetic “recoded” version of E. coli bacteria that is being used in a positive way—to fight disease. Their discovery is being heralded as an important breakthrough in the quest to custom-alter DNA to create synthetic forms of life that one day could be designed to fight specific infections, create new drugs, or produce tools to diagnose or treat disease.

Scientists worldwide working in the field of synthetic genomics are looking for ways to modify genomes in order to produce new weapons against infection and disease. This research could eventually produce methods for doctors—after diagnosing a patient’s specific strain of bacteria—to then use custom-altered DNA as an effective weapon against that patient’s specific bacterial infection.

This latest milestone is the result of a five-year quest by researchers at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC-LMB) in Cambridge, England, to create a man-made version of the intestinal bacteria by redesigning its four-million-base-pair genetic code.

The MRC-LMB lab’s success marks the first time a living organism has been created with a compressed genetic code.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature.

Synthetic Genomics and Clinical Laboratories

Benjamin A. Blount, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate at Imperial College London, and Tom Ellis, PhD, Professor in Synthetic Genome Engineering at Imperial College London, praised the MRC-LMB team’s accomplishment in a subsequent Nature article.

“This is a landmark in the emerging field of synthetic genomics and finally applies the technology to the laboratory’s workhorse bacterium,” they wrote. “Synthetic genomics offers a new way of life, while at the same time moving synthetic biology towards a future in which genomes can be written to design.”

All known forms of life on Earth contain 64 codons—a specific sequence of three consecutive nucleotides that corresponds with a specific amino acid or stop signal during protein synthesis. Jason Chin, PhD, Program Lead at MRC-LMB, said biologists long have questioned why there are 20 amino acids encoded by 64 codons.

“Is there any function to having more than one codon to encode each amino acid?” Chin asked during an interview with the Cambridge Independent. “What would happen if you made an organism that used a reduced set of codons?”

The MRC-LMB research team took an important step toward answering that question. Their synthetic E. coli strain, dubbed Syn61, was recoded through “genome-wide substitution of target codons by defined synonyms.” To do so, researchers mastered a new piece-by-piece technique that enabled them to recode 18,214 codons to create an organism with a 61-codon genome that functions without a previously essential transfer RNA.

“Our synthetic genome implements a defined recoding and refactoring scheme–with simple corrections at just seven positions–to replace every known occurrence of two sense codons and a stop codon in the genome,” lead author Julius Fredens, PhD, a post-doctoral research associate at MRC, and colleagues, wrote in their paper.

Science Alert reports that the laboratory-created version of E. coli (above) “isn’t quite a dead ringer for its ancestor. The cells are a touch longer, and they reproduce 1.6 times slower. But the edited E. coli seems healthy and produces the same range and quantity of proteins as the non-edited versions.” (Photo copyright: Jason Chin/STAT.)

Joshua Atkinson, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate at Rice University in Houston, labeled the breakthrough a “tour de force” in the field of synthetic genomics. “This achievement sets a new world record in synthetic genomics by yielding a genome that is four times larger than the pioneering synthesis of the one-million-base-pair Mycoplasma mycoides genome,” he stated in Synthetic Biology.

“Synthetic genomics is enabling the simplification of recoded organisms; the previous study minimized the total number of genes and this new study simplified the way those genes are encoded.”

Manmade Bacteria That are Immune to Infections

Researchers from the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, created the first synthetic genome in 2010. According to an article in Nature, the Venter Institute successfully synthesized the Mycoplasma mycoides genome and used it “reboot” a cell from a different species of bacterium.

The MRC-LMB team’s success may prove more significant.

“This new synthetic E. coli should not be able to decode DNA from any other organism and therefore it should not be possible to infect it with a virus,” the MRC-LMB stated in a news release heralding the lab’s breakthrough. “With E. coli already being an important workhorse of biotechnology and biological research, this study is the first time any commonly used model organism has had its genome designed and fully synthesized and this synthetic version could become an important resource for future development of new types of molecules.”

Because the MRC-LMB team was able to remove transfer RNA and release factors that decode three codons from the E. coli bacteria, their achievement may be the springboard to designing manmade bacteria that are immune to infections or could be turned into new drugs.

“This may enable these codons to be cleanly reassigned and facilitate the incorporation of multiple non-canonical amino acids. This greatly expands the scope of using non-canonical amino acids as unique tools for biological research,” the MRC-LMB news release added.

Though synthetic genomics impact on clinical laboratory diagnostics is yet to be known, medical laboratory leaders should be mindful of the potential for rapid innovation in this field as proof-of-concept laboratory innovations are translated into real-world applications.

—Andrea Downing Peck

Related Information:

Scientists Redesigned an Entire Genome to Create the Most Synthetic Life Form Yet

World’s First Synthetic Organism with Fully Recoded DNA Is Created at MRC LMB in Cambridge

Creating an Entire Bacterial Genome with a Compressed Genetic Code

Total Synthesis of Escherichia Coli with a Recoded Genome

Construction of an Escherichia Coli Genome with Fewer Codons Sets Records

Life Simplified: Recompiling a Bacterial Genome for Synonymous Codon Compression

Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome

Cambridge University Researchers Recode E. Coli DNA to Create Living, Reproducing Bacteria with Entirely Synthetic DNA

Harvard Medical School Researchers Use CRISPR Technology to Insert Images into the DNA of Bacteria

Technology allows retrievable information to be recorded directly into the genomes of living bacteria, but will this technology have value in clinical laboratory testing?

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have successfully used CRISPR technology to encode an image and a short film into the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of bacteria. Their goal is to develop a way to record and store retrievable information in the genomes of living bacteria. A story in the Harvard Gazette described the new technology as a sort of “biological hard drive.”

It remains to be seen how this technology might impact medical laboratories and pathology groups. Nevertheless, their accomplishment is another example of how CRISPR technology is leading to new insights and capabilities that will advance genetic medicine and genetic testing.

The researchers published their study in the journal Science, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Recording Complex Biological Events in the Genomes of Bacteria

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) are DNA sequences containing short, repetitive base sequences found in the genomes of bacteria and other micro-organisms that can facilitate the modification of genes within organisms. The term CRISPR also can refer to the whole CRISPR-Cas9 system, which can be programmed to pinpoint certain areas of genetic code and to modify DNA at exact locations.

Led by George Church, PhD, faculty member and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, the team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., constructed a molecular recorder based on CRISPR that enables cells to obtain DNA information and produce a memory in the genome of bacteria. With it, they inserted a GIF image and a five-frame movie into the bacteria’s DNA.

“As promising as this was, we did not know what would happen when we tried to track about 100 sequences at once, or if it would work at all,” noted Seth Shipman, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, and one of the authors of the study in the Harvard Gazette story. “This was critical since we are aiming to use this system to record complex biological events as our ultimate goal.”

Translating Digital Information into DNA Code

The team transferred an image of a human hand and five frames of a movie of a running horse onto nucleotides to imbed data into the genomes of bacteria. This produced a code relating to the pixels of each image. CRISPR was then used to insert genetic code into the DNA of Escherichia coli (E-coli) bacteria. The researchers discovered that CRISPR did have the ability to encode complex information into living cells.

“The information is not contained in a single cell, so each individual cell may only see certain bits or pieces of the movie. So, what we had to do was reconstruct the whole movie from the different pieces,” stated Shipman in a BBC News article. “Maybe a single cell saw a few pixels from frame one and a few pixels from frame four … so we had to look at the relation of all those pieces of information in the genomes of these living cells and say, ‘Can we reconstruct the entire movie over time?’”

The team used an image of a digitized human hand because it embodies the type of intricate data they wish to use in future experiments. A movie also was used because it has a timing component, which could prove to be beneficial in understanding how a cell and its environment may change over time. The researchers chose one of the first motion pictures ever recorded—moving images of a galloping horse by Eadweard Muybridge, a British photographer and inventor from the late 19th century.

“We designed strategies that essentially translate the digital information contained in each pixel of an image or frame, as well as the frame number, into a DNA code that, with additional sequences, is incorporated into spacers. Each frame thus becomes a collection of spacers,” Shipman explained in the Harvard Gazette story. “We then provided spacer collections for consecutive frames chronologically to a population of bacteria which, using Cas1/Cas2 activity, added them to the CRISPR arrays in their genomes. And after retrieving all arrays again from the bacterial population by DNA sequencing, we finally were able to reconstruct all frames of the galloping horse movie and the order they appeared in.”

In the video above, Wyss Institute and Harvard Medical School researchers George Church, PhD, and Seth Shipman, PhD, explain how they engineered a new CRISPR system-based technology that enables the chronological recording of digital information, like that representing still and moving images, in living bacteria. Click on the image above to view the video. It is still too early to determine how this technology may be useful to pathologists and clinical laboratory scientists. (Caption and video copyright: Wyss Institute at Harvard University.)

“In this study, we show that two proteins of the CRISPR system, Cas1 and Cas2, that we have engineered into a molecular recording tool, together with new understanding of the sequence requirements for optimal spacers, enables a significantly scaled-up potential for acquiring memories and depositing them in the genome as information that can be provided by researchers from the outside, or that, in the future, could be formed from the cells natural experiences,” stated Church in the Harvard Gazette story. “Harnessed further, this approach could present a way to cue different types of living cells in their natural tissue environments into recording the formative changes they are undergoing into a synthetically created memory hotspot in their genomes.”

Encoding Information into Cells for Clinical Laboratory Testing and Therapy

The team plans to focus on creating molecular recording devices for other cell types and on enhancing their current CRISPR recorder to memorize biological information.

“One day, we may be able to follow all the developmental decisions that a differentiating neuron is taking from an early stem cell to a highly-specialized type of cell in the brain, leading to a better understanding of how basic biological and developmental processes are choreographed,” stated Shipman in the Harvard Gazette story. Ultimately, the approach could lead to better methods for generating cells for regenerative therapy, disease modeling, drug testing, and clinical laboratory testing.

According to Shipman in the BBC News article, these cells could “encode information about what’s going on in the cell and what’s going on in the cell environment by writing that information into their own genome.”

This field of research is still new and its full potential is not yet understood. However, if this capability can be developed, there could be opportunities for pathologists and molecular chemists to develop methods for in vivo monitoring of a patient’s cell function. These methods could prove to be an unexpected new way for clinical laboratories to add value and become more engaged with the clinical care team.

—JP Schlingman

Related Information:

New CRISPR Technology Takes Cells to the Movies

Molecular Recordings by Directed CRISPR Spacer Acquisition

GIF and Image Written into the DNA of Bacteria

Pro and Con: Should Gene Editing be Performed on Human Embryos?

CRISPR Gene Editing Can Cause Hundreds of Unintended Mutations

Intellia Therapeutics Announces Patent for CRISPR/Cas Genome Editing in China

Everything You Need to Know about CRISPR, the New Tool that Edits DNA

Breakthrough DNA Editor Born of Bacteria

Patent Dispute over CRISPR Gene-Editing Technology May Determine Who Will Be

Top Biologists Call for Moratorium on Use of CRISPR Gene Editing Tool for Clinical Purposes Because of Concerns about Unresolved Ethical Issues

New Fast, Inexpensive, Mobile Device Accurately Identifies Healthcare-Acquired Infections and Communicates Findings to Doctors’ Smartphones and Portable Computers

Use of these new technologies creates opportunities for clinical laboratories and pathologists to add more value when collaborating with physicians to advance patient care

Ongoing improvements in point-of-care testing are encouraging one major academic medical center to apply this mode of testing to the diagnosis of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). This development should be of interest to clinical laboratory professionals and pathologists, since it has the potential to create a different way to identify patients with HAIs than medical lab tests done in the central laboratory.

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard Medical School’s (HMS’) largest teaching hospital, has developed a prototype diagnostic system that works with doctors’ smartphones or mobile computers. The hand-held system can identify pathogens responsible for specific healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) at the point of care within two hours, according to an MGH statement.

The researchers noted that 600,000 patients develop HAIs each year, 10% of which die, and that costs related to HAIs can reach $100 to $150 billion per year. However, as Dark Daily reported, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) does not reimburse hospitals for certain HAIs. (See Dark Daily, Consumer Reports Ranks Smaller and Non-Teaching Hospitals Highest in Infection Prevention,” October, 30, 2015.) Thus, the critical need to identify from where the infection originated, which generates a significant proportion of samples tested at the clinical laboratories of the nation’s hospitals and health systems.

Therefore, pathologists and medical laboratory scientists will understand that shifting some of that specimen volume to point-of-care testing will change the overall economics of hospital laboratories.

Smartphone-based Genetic Test for HIAs

The MGH research team created a way to do accurate genetic testing in a simple device powered by a system they call Polarization Anisotropy Diagnostics (PAD). The system measures changes in fluorescence anisotropy through a detection probe’s recognition of bacterial nucleic acid, reported Medscape Medical News. More than 35 probes for detecting bacterial species and virulence factors are available.

Optical test cubes are placed on an electronic base station that transmits data to a smartphone or computer, where results are displayed. “In a pilot clinical test, PAD accuracy was comparable to that of bacterial culture. In contrast to the culture, the PAD assay was fast (under two hours), multiplexed, and cost effective (under $2 per assay), wrote the MGH researchers in the journal Science Advances. (more…)

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