Undetected infections can rapidly lead to severe illness, amputation, and death, particularly in elderly and immune compromised populations. Understanding which microorganism is causing a wound infection and what treatment is likely to be most effective is vital, both to improve patient outcomes and mimize drug resistance. However, current diagnostic methods need over 24 hours to get results, and even newer molecular and biochemical techniques require an incubation period of several hours to produce enough cells for testing. Developing new diagnostics that produce faster results is of high importance and could transform patient care.
The Boston-based startup QSM Diagnostics is developing point-of-care sensors for infection monitoring, allowing doctors to quickly detect and treat specific types of infections. These inexpensive, disposable sensors use an electrochemical detection strategy to identify molecules produced by bacteria. The sensors requires samples of only 7.5 microliters, which are taken directly from patients without any preparation, and take less than 1 minute to analyze. So far, the startup has used the device to successfully detect pyocyanin, a molecule produced by the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria which is commonly found in chronic wounds, and is working to develop the technology further to improve accuracy and include other bacteria. A paper on their research was earlier in 2016 published in the journal Wound Repair and Regeneration.
Current methods include taking a sample from a wound, leaving it in a petri dish for over 24 hours to see if any bacterial cultures form. In the meantime, the wound goes untreated. Doctors could administer broad-spectrum antibiotics before getting lab results back, but if there is no infection, medication is wasted and patients may be needlessly subjected to side effects. Not to mention the unnecessary use of antibiotics and potential risk of bacterial resistance.
QSM Diagnostics has developed an innovation technology that can identify harmful bacteria in wounds at point-of-care within seconds, which could significantly enhance patient care. Not having to wait for culture results speed the decision making process, increase efficiency, while being able to make smarter decisions about antibiotics and better tailor therapies for each patient. Although still early in the development, this technology could improve patient outcomes and become a major part of the strategy against bacterial resistance, highlighting the technology’s huge potential.
The startup was founded in 2014 and is a spinoff company from Northeastern University, and has previously received IDEA Gap Funding. In 2016, they were a finalist of the Diabetes Innovation Challenge, a global competition to identify and accelerate transformational advancements in diabetes research and care, as well as MassChallenge, the global non-profit startup accelerator and competition with a focus on high-impact, early stage entrepreneurs.