Chip Detects Antibiotics in Exhaled Breath


Researchers at the University of Freiburg in Germany have invented a chip that can detect antibiotic levels in the breath, paving the path for quick antibiotic testing at the point of care.

Antibiotic levels in the body must be maintained in order to successfully treat infections while avoiding drug adverse effects and the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The device allows for non-invasive and quick antibiotic testing, which could lead to tailored drug therapy.

Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise, and it’s largely due to erroneous antibiotic use. Resistant microorganisms can live and flourish if antibiotics are given at too low a dose, contributing to treatment failure and antibiotic resistance. Drug side effects can be a problem if the dose is too high. However, providing the “correct” dose is difficult since each patient reacts differently, with inter-individual variances in metabolism potentially contributing to radically varied antibiotic concentrations reaching and remaining in the blood.

Directly measuring medication levels in the body after a dosage and adjusting the dose as needed to keep drug levels within an acceptable therapeutic window is the greatest technique to tailor antibiotic therapy. However, there are few procedures that allow for non-invasive and quick antibiotic testing.

This is where the most recent technology seeks to make an impact. Synthetic proteins, comparable to those utilized by resistant bacteria to detect antibiotics in their environment, are used in the chip. In a press release, Wilfried Weber, a researcher engaged in the study, remarked, “You might say we’re beating the bacteria at their own game.”

The proteins are locked in place on a polymer layer on the small microfluidic chip. The antibiotic in a breath sample binds to proteins, causing an electrical current to alter. “Until now, experts have only been able to detect antibiotic residues in the breath. We can determine the lowest quantities in the breath condensate using our synthetic proteins on a microfluidic device, and they correlate with blood values,” said Can Dincer, another study participant.

So far, the team has established that the results of breath analysis are consistent with those of blood samples, indicating that the technology is suitable for non-invasive testing.

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