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In hospitals, bacteria and fungal infections raise havoc with the health of susceptible patients and people who eat contaminated food. Results of tests to determine which microbes are causing potentially deadly infections can take a day or more. Dr. Hur Koser, associate professor of electrical engineering, and School of Management student Arjun Ganesan believe they have found a way to identify pathogens within minutes.
Ancera is developing a rapid diagnostic device that uses cell separation technology to flag infectious agents in less than 10 minutes. Blood cultures are the gold standard for identifying infections but can take 3 to 7 days to see results. Other methods to analyze DNA called polymerase chain reaction can take from 24 to 96 hours.
"Finding a pathogen is like looking for a needle in a haystack," Ganesan said.
There is a huge market for such a product, he added. The nation has experienced has experienced several widespread outbreaks of foodborne pathogens such as e. coli. Food inspectors and health officials need such a device to rapidly respond to such outbreaks.
Bacterial and fungal infections in hospitals often trigger sepsis, a massive immune response to infections, which kill 215,000 people annually at a cost of $17 billion.
Ancera has received some early stage financing. The technology has been shown to work in laboratory setting and currently can identify pathogens in two hours. In the next year, Ganesan and Koser hope to reduce the time of diagnostic results and the size of the device until it is fully portable.