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Diagnostics Point of care testing, Microbiology and immunology, Technology and innovation

A (Bio)Sense of Hope

Sepsis is one of the leading causes of neonatal mortality across the world – resulting in around one million fatalities every year (1). Catching the infection early is crucial for effective management and improved outcomes – but many patients in developing countries lack speedy access to healthcare.

Point-of-care testing (POCT) should, in theory, enable healthcare professionals to rapidly detect and diagnose sepsis following inflammation. Current methods, however, rely on a single biomarker – a clear gap in the testing landscape. Now, a collaborative team of researchers has reviewed the latest diagnostic advancements in POCT for neonatal sepsis and the role biosensing may play in enabling rapid response (2).

A combination of methods may alleviate each technique’s weaknesses for diagnosing sepsis.

Routine blood culture techniques can take two to five days to return results, during which time infections can worsen while infants are treated with unnecessary antibiotics – fueling the spread of antimicrobial resistance. PCR testing and mass spectrometry yield faster results, but sacrifice high specificity and cannot distinguish between viable and nonviable pathogens. The authors note that a combination of methods may alleviate each technique’s weaknesses for diagnosing sepsis – but what about biosensors?

In the review, the authors discuss the potential of electrochemical sensors; the size, stability, and high binding affinity of aptamers (single-stranded nucleic acid probes); the high sensitivity and low limits of detection of sensors based on surface plasmon resonance; and the opportunity inherent in microfluidic devices and chip-based sensors that can detect bacterial and blood cells in patient samples.

What did they conclude? The team suggest that an integrated approach combining multiple techniques on a single platform may be best – hybrid biosensors that can rapidly detect multiple biomarkers or parameters from small samples. “Integrated POC-based diagnosis will help reduce detection time considerably and thus translate diagnosis from bench to the bedside,” said lead author Anupam Jyoti (3). “An efficient POC sepsis diagnostic platform could expand health care access and impact populations worldwide.”

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  1. World Health Organization (2017). Available at: https://bit.ly/3yWN1Uc.
  2. A Jyoti et al., Clin Chim Acta, 521, 45 (2021). PMID: 34153274.
  3. Shoolini Team (2021). Available at: https://bit.ly/3nvt6dd.
About the Author
Olivia Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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