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PAD Device Diagnoses Infections Quickly

PAD Device Diagnoses Infections Quickly


Healthcare-associated infections are in the spotlight right now, in part due to the growing concern over antibiotic resistance, so how can an app help? Ralph Weissleder, MD, Ph.D., the director of Massachusetts General Hospital, MGH, Center for Systems Biology and a professor at Harvard Medical School, explains that rapid diagnosis of the bacteria involved in an outbreak is the first critical step to choosing a proper medical treatment. With that in mind, Weissleder and his fellow researchers have created a device that provides a point-of-care diagnosis.


Short for  the MGH design provides accurate genetic testing in one simple device. PAD takes a small sample, performs polymerase chain reaction amplification of the RNA and identifies the pathogen. Of course, it is not really that easy, but the program does offer fast results. Clinicians waiting to diagnose an infection and create a treatment plan need only a couple of hours with this device, instead of days. The results are available via a smartphone readout.

Traditional culture-based diagnosis requires more than time, too. It takes expensive, specialized equipment, fully trained lab technicians and complex procedures to get that same job done.

Study Done on Prototype

Dr. Weissleder was part of the team that investigated the prototype device, as well. The researchers used the PAD system to test clinical samples from nine patients and compared the results to the lab data. They tested for the presence of five different bacterial strains such as E. coli, Pseudomonas and Staph aureus. They also tested for factors that indicate antibiotic resistance in the strains. Both procedures produced identical results. The PAD completed the test in two hours while the culture took three to five days.

Hakho Lee, Ph.D., also with MGH Center for Systems Biology and a member of the design team, states the prototype needs a little work still. They plan to build a self-contained system for all functions to reduce the assay time to less than 60 minutes, as well as expand the panel of probes to cover more pathogens and resistance factors. Researchers do see three immediate applications for the device, though.

  • Obtaining a fast diagnosis of an infection
  • Determining if the pathogen is resistant to known treatments
  • Detecting contamination of medical devices or environment

The rash of deadly CRE outbreaks associated with endoscopes has made infection control a major concern for hospitals. Using the PAD device may help identify problems before they happen and treat patients with an HAI that much quicker.

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