NEWS2U Health & Wellness
Living Healthy in an Unhealthy World

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Let There be Light - to uncover the Bacteria

by Renin Paul

A team of scientists at Sheffield University in the United Kingdom have ascertained a method by which the occurrence of bacteria can be revealed in less than a minute with the help of light.

Dependent upon what type of polymer is being used, the light that is emitted can consist of a colored glowing light or a light invisible to the human eye but noticeable in fluorescent light.

This know-how could be applied in many situations: for the healing of wounds, for dealing with terrorism and for the checking of patients for various infections such as the skin and nose MRSA, Methicilllin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly called 'staph', to name some of them.

The team's success in creating these polymers or special large molecules capable of binding to cells, comes as a culmination of five years of research and hard work.

Professor of cell and tissue engineering, Sheila MacNeil is also one of the project leaders.

According to her this is an excellent development as detection can now be done in a matter of moments compared to the prevailing method of detecting bacteria in laboratories which is far more cumbersome and lengthy, taking up to several days.

The scientists are now developing polymers capable of attaching to bacterial cells. This is being funded by the Ministry of Defense. Once the polymers are put into a wound doctors would be able to use a light signal to see if there was a bacterial infection. Besides detecting the presence of bacteria, this mechanism would be able to also uncover bacteria being released deliberately as in an anthrax attack.

Another leader of the project, Dr Steve Rimmer, department of chemistry stated that the polymers which give the light signal upon experiencing a change of shape have already been made. According to him not only will it be possible to detect infection in a wound but it will also be possible to identify the type of bacteria.

A portable kit containing this would be especially advantageous in an area of fighting where it would be difficult or practically impossible to avail of laboratory facilities.

Birmingham University's public health bacteriology professor Peter Hawkey is working for the Department of Health to develop tests outside a laboratory as in a hospital. In his work he uses a technique for amplifying and detecting bacterial DNA. He welcomes any quick tests for the detection of bacteria.