Handheld MRSA detection

A UK collaboration is attempting to develop a hand-held system to detect the hospital superbugs C. difficile and MRSA.


The effort includes participation from Universal Sensors, NottinghamTrentUniversity and Cambridge Design Partnership.


The control of healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) and improving the cleanliness of hospitals are primary objectives for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).


Systematic processes for cleaning are vital to control HCAIs, but it is difficult to ensure that an area decontaminated by cleaning after an outbreak is free from live bacteria or C. difficile spores.


The collaboration believes this is because of a lack of quick and simple environmental tests.


The team is working to create an environmental testing device to make this process fast and simple to perform, for use in hospitals and in the wider community.


The result will be a new highly sensitive biosensor-based product that can detect pathogens in five minutes.


Traditional tests have to be performed in a specialised laboratory and can take two to three days to get the results back to the infection-control team.


‘The impact that this new product could have on HCAI control is significant,’ said Graham Cooley, chief executive of Universal Sensors.


‘The ability to place greater control into the hands of HCAI control specialists will be a real benefit.


‘It will allow the infection-control team to know within five minutes whether an area is safe for a patient to occupy and it can be used by workers that do not possess specialist training.’

The collaboration was assembled by Cambridge Design Partnership, which had worked with Universal Sensors in the development of the manufacturing technique for the sensors.


The companies hope to combine this sensor technology with Cambridge Design Partnership’s platform for hand-held devices.


Cambridge Design Partnership describes its hand-held platform as powerful but low-cost micro-processor-based technology.


The development took several years.


The company revealed there are various versions of this platform incorporated into current products, such as Satmap’s Active 10TM GPS product, which uses Ordnance Survey maps for outdoors sports, and the driver-friendly Road Angel system.


The group hopes to re-apply this technology for use with the Universal Sensor detection system to allow the creation of a new mobile device for performing immunoassays (ELISA or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and tests for DNA from pathogenic organisms.


The platform will be designed to comply with EU directives for medical devices (In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices Directive 98/79/EC) and FDA requirements for Class II Medical Devices in the USA (market clearance by 510(k) pre-market notification) as well as being CE marked and UL approved as a laboratory instrument.


‘The development of a mobile test platform is an important cornerstone of this collaboration,’ said Duncan Purvis, scientific officer of Universal Sensors, ‘but we also needed leading research-scientists that could develop tests for HCAIs.’


Purvis said Alan McNally of NottinghamTrentUniversity will develop new tests to integrate into its mobile product platform, which is called eLISATM (electronically linked immunosorbent assay).


McNally, who specialises in the development of assays for infection control, is part of a research programme developing a portable test for bird flu.


‘I was deeply impressed when I first saw the power and potential of the Universal Sensor technology,’ said McNally.


‘Its speed, sensitivity and flexibility mean that this technology can be applied to a range of different assays (tests), as well as for MRSA and C. difficile.’


The collaboration is funded through the new Small Business Research Initiative, in contracts that were awarded by the National Institute for Health Research under its Invention for Innovation Programme.