Biochip Breakthrough

Can a rapid and portable test for drug-resistant pathogens offer new hope in the fight against antimicrobial resistance?

By Luke Turner

November 2018

At a Glance

  • A new portable biochip boasts the ability to detect microbes simultaneously and rapidly in clinical samples
  • The technology should allow doctors to identify drug-resistant strains and select the most effective treatments
  • Its creators hope that the technique will help with the fight against antimicrobial resistance by avoiding inappropriate antibiotic use
  • With the development of an open-source version of the platform, clinicians will be able to create custom chips that “scan” for new microbes as they are discovered

Antimicrobial resistance represents an increasingly serious threat to public health around the globe. Molecular diagnostics systems enable rapid identification of pathogens through nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and occasionally facilitate the detection of resistance-causing mutations. But despite the promise of enabling appropriate antibiotic selection, existing systems are restricted by their limited multiplexing (the maximum number of strains and sequences that can be detected) and low accuracy for identifying point mutations, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Now, a team of researchers has developed a new approach: a miniaturized semiconductor biochip and multiplexed NAAT that is capable of swiftly amplifying, detecting, and quantifying DNA or RNA sequences in their hundreds.

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