A test to show whether wounds or lesions have been infected with bacteria including MRSA has been developed by Edinburgh University scientists.
It works by taking swabs from a wound or sores, which are then analysed using a strip with electrical sensors that can detect MRSA.
It is hoped the tests will allow almost immediate detection of the bacteria.
This would allow patients to be given more effective drugs straight away.
The swab samples are currently processed in the laboratory to increase the amount of bacteria present before they are tested with the strips.
But the researchers hope to avoid the need for this in the future by improving the strip’s sensitivity in order to allow the tests to be used in GP practices and people’s homes.
Laboratory tests to confirm whether MRSA is present in a wound can take a full day using conventional techniques.
The new test was developed using swabs from diabetic foot ulcers taken from patients attending NHS Lothian’s Diabetic Foot Clinic at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
Detection of MRSA in these patients is important to prevent the spread of infection, which can lead to the amputation of limbs and increase the risk of mortality.
Dr Till Bachman, from the University of Edinburgh’s Division of Pathway Medicine, will present the research behind the test at the Advances in Biodetection and Biosensors conference in the city on Thursday.
He said: “Current tests for MRSA tend to be expensive and not very fast. By developing a rapid and cost-effective test, we would know what kind of infection is present straight away, which will improve the chance of success in treating it.”
Edinburgh scientists are using similar technology to monitor signals that bacteria send to each other to spread infections, and chemicals that patients produce that indicate the wound’s response to the infecting bacteria.
Understanding why bacteria release certain molecules as part of this process will help scientists identify the start of an infection and so treat it promptly.