The Infector Detector

A biosensor to catch catheter infections

Urinary tract infections caused by catheterisation are a common and nasty affliction for the disabled, elderly and hospital patients.

Team members working on their iGEM project
Team members working on their iGEM project

Urinary tract infections caused by catheterisation are a common and nasty affliction for the disabled, elderly and hospital paients.  Professor Richard Kitney at the Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, who is one of the academic supervisors of an interesting related project at the college explained: ‘Normally, in hospitals, doctors and nurses only find out that a patient has a urinary infection from their catheter when the patient’s temperature rises and they become ill. By the time these symptoms are displayed, the infection has travelled up the catheter into the body, which is very serious if left untreated.’
The result of the project, involving biochemistry and bioengineering students and researchers at the college, is a biological sensor that catches infections on hospital catheters at an early stage. The concept consists of a genetically engineered device suspended in liquid that could be painted on to the end of a catheter outside the patient’s body. This liquid contains a protein that seeks and latches on to a small molecule called AHL, a bacterial secretion found in these types of infections. When AHL is present and intercepted by the molecular devices, a second protein is activated, which glows green. This causes the liquid on the catheter to change colour, fluorescing green, which indicates the presence of an early-stage infection. ‘Our device would mean that healthcare workers would get a clear early warning sign – in the form of a fluorescing green signal – that an infection was present on the catheter. This would allow them to perform basic disinfection, removing the bacteria from the catheter, before it could take hold in the patient,’ Prof. Kitney pointed out.
The student team – consisting of 10 undergraduate students from the Departments of Life Sciences and Bioengineering – presented their project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA this November, as Imperial’s entry in the 2007 International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition. Last year an Imperial College team of undergraduates scooped second place in this competition.
The iGEM competition was established in 2004 by MIT to promote student involvement in the emerging field of synthetic biology - an emerging science that combines engineering approaches with biology to use cells as manufacturing units.
James Chappell, one of the Imperial undergraduates on the team said: ‘The iGEM project has been an excellent experience. It has helped me build confidence and understanding in the field of biology and given me new insights into the methodology of engineering Biology. For the first time, I have seen a project – our Infector Detector – develop from the initial brainstorming sessions to a functional synthetic machine.’

16.11.2007

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Photo

Article •

Battling the bugs

In terms of health politics, no hospital-related

subject is more explosive than hygiene.

However, although this reaction is common

across Europe, approaches…

Photo

News • Fighting antibacterial resistance

Continued COVID levels of hygiene could transform infection control

Making recommendations for change, academics analyzed global data into the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in urban areas—the rise of which is threatening the lifesaving role of the…

Photo

News • Nosocomial infection prevention

Improving hospital hand hygiene compliance with smart measurement system

Water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services provider Ecolab launches its Hand Hygiene Compliance Measurement (HHCM) System, a digitally connected technology to systematically…

Related products

Associates of Cape Cod – Fungitell STAT Assay

Identification/Susceptibility

Associates of Cape Cod – Fungitell STAT Assay

Associates of Cape Cod Europe GmbH
Canon – Advanced Edge Enhancement

Accessories / Complementary Systems

Canon – Advanced Edge Enhancement

Canon Europe NV – Medical Components Business Group
DK Medical – Prostar

Surgical II-C-Arms

DK Medical – Prostar

DK Medical Systems Co., Ltd
Fujifilm – Arietta 850

Ultrasound

Fujifilm – Arietta 850

FUJIFILM Europe GmbH
Fujifilm – Arietta 850 SE

Ultrasound

Fujifilm – Arietta 850 SE

FUJIFILM Europe GmbH
Fujifilm - FDX Visionary-C and CS

Surgical Flat Panel C-arms

Fujifilm - FDX Visionary-C and CS

FUJIFILM Europe GmbH
Subscribe to Newsletter