More than half of all women experience at least one episode of urinary tract infection (UTI) in their lifetime, with men also facing increasing risks of infection as they age. Current detection of UTIs rely on patients reporting symptoms followed by a lab culture of the urine for known bacterial culprits, which typically takes a few days. However, doctors tend to prescribe antibiotics to suppress any suspect cases of UTI before they get the test results, contributing to the increasing problem of antibiotic resistance. Dipstick tests that reduce the time taken for diagnoses come with a high chance of false positives.
A multidisciplinary and international team of Korean and Indian researchers have recently developed a fidget spinner-based device to detect UTIs from urine samples. In a paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the team describes the development and testing of the rectangular device which takes as little as 1ml of urine. With one or two nudges, the device spins for a long time pushing any bacteria onto a membrane. This is then dyed, with a color change visible to the naked eye in less than one hour, which indicates the amount of bacterial load.
The device was field-tested on 39 patients in Tiruchirappalli, India who would have all been given antibiotics based on their symptoms alone. 59% of the patients were found to be over/under-treated with antibiotics, something that can be rectified using this novel device.
Another test gave a preliminary indication of the presence of antibiotic resistance. By testing the spun samples treated with different drugs and comparing them to untreated samples, the team was able to quickly make a decision on which antibiotic might work best to treat the UTI. While this does not compare to lab-based tests for microbial resistance, it is still a useful add-on for resource-poor settings that do not typically test for resistance.
The team also reported that the test can be performed by novices and that there’s no extensive training that is required to learn how to spin the device and read the results. The ease-of-use, low price point, availability of quick results, and immediate benefits such as the reduction in the prescription of antibiotics, make the new spinner an attractive alternative for diagnosing UTIs.
Here’s a video from the Korean Institute for Basic Science showing off the new device, how it’s loaded, and used:
Link to the original paper in Nature Biomedical Engineering: A fidget spinner for the point-of-care diagnosis of urinary tract infection
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