News / Health

Swiss Device Calibrates Antibiotics Dosage

Laboratory technicians may now have a new instrument to help them calibrate the dosage of antibiotics.
Laboratory technicians may now have a new instrument to help them calibrate the dosage of antibiotics.
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA News
Scientists in Switzerland say they have developed a matchbox-sized device that can test for the presence of harmful bacterial activity in an infected patient in a few minutes instead of the days or even weeks current medical technology requires.
 
With antibiotic resistant bacterial infections on the rise, doctors say they need to be sure they are administering just the right antibiotic at the exact dosage needed to effectively and quickly treat a specific infection. 
 
Sometimes an infection is so severe that a patient may be within hours of death unless proper treatment is given immediately.  
 
Today, though, it takes a long time to determine that specific and crucial mix of what antibiotic to use and how much of it should be administered to a patient who may be infected with any of a countless variety of contagions
 
Medical professionals must first culture the bacteria, observe its growth, and then measure the bacterial infection's response to any of a number of antibiotic treatments.   
 
But, in cases when time is a major factor, doctors often just don’t have that luxury of using the lengthy lab work needed to help determine such specific treatment. 
 
Past experience used to make judgment
 
Instead, many simply rely on their past experience and use their best judgment to select what they consider to be the most effective medication to treat their patient.
 
While in many cases this approach works just fine and the patient fully recuperates, doctors also run the risk that their selected medication is not only ineffective, but could expose the patient to possibly dangerous side effects and cause the infectious bacteria to become antibiotic resistant.
 
The e-coli bacteria could be identified and treated more quickly with new device.The e-coli bacteria could be identified and treated more quickly with new device.
x
The e-coli bacteria could be identified and treated more quickly with new device.
The e-coli bacteria could be identified and treated more quickly with new device.
The researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) say they found their solution at the Nano, or atomic, level. 
 
Their newly developed device is centered on a microscopically small lever that vibrates in the presence of bacterial activity. A laser focused on the lever reads the vibration and then translates it into electrical signals that can be easily read.  If there’s no signal, according to the researchers, that means there’s no bacteria.  The entire test only takes minutes.
 
"This method is fast and accurate. And it can be a precious tool for both doctors looking for the right dosage of antibiotics and for researchers to determine which treatments are the most effective," explains Giovanni Dietler, a professor at EPFL and one of the researchers involved in developing the device.
 
The vibrations that their Nano-levers detect are actually caused by the microscopic movements of a bacterium's metabolism.
 
According to the researchers these metabolic movements are almost imperceptible. So in order to measure and test for this activity, the researchers first put bacteria on an extremely sensitive measuring device which in turn would vibrate a tiny lever that is only just a little bit thicker than a strand of hair if it detects metabolic activity from the microbes.  
 
The vibrations the tiny lever produces are also incredibly small, oscillating at approximately one millionth of a millimeter.  So to measure these microscopic vibrations, a laser is projected onto the lever and the light that’s reflected back is converted into an electrical signal that is then interpreted by a clinician. 
 
Signals easy to read

The researchers say that these electrical signals are as easy to read as an electrocardiogram.  If the signals produce a flat line then that means all of the bacteria are all dead. So within minutes a doctor can sample the harmful bacteria and determine whether certain antibiotic treatments would be successful or not.
 
A technician displays MRSA bacteria strain - a drug-resistant "superbug" at a laboratory in Berlin.A technician displays MRSA bacteria strain - a drug-resistant "superbug" at a laboratory in Berlin.
x
A technician displays MRSA bacteria strain - a drug-resistant "superbug" at a laboratory in Berlin.
A technician displays MRSA bacteria strain - a drug-resistant "superbug" at a laboratory in Berlin.
While their device is already very small the researchers are hoping to shrink their device to an even smaller size. 

"By joining our tool with a piezoelectric device instead of a laser, we could further reduce its size to the size of a microchip," says Dietler. “They could then be combined together to test a series of antibiotics on one strain in only a couple of minutes.”
 
The research team is now working to see if their tool could be used in other areas of medical treatment, especially oncology, the study of tumors and cancers.  Using a technique similar to the one they use on bacteria, they’re trying to find out if they could measure the metabolism of tumor cells that have been exposed to cancer treatment to evaluate the efficiency of the treatment.
 
"If our method also works in this field, we really have a precious tool on our hands that can allow us to develop new treatments and also test both quickly and simply how the patient is reacting to the cancer treatment," says Sandor Kasas, another member of the team that developed the new device.
 
The study outlining the research and development of the device has been published in the latest issue of the journal, Nature Nanotechnology.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid