01 October 2015 Photonics for early diagnosis of IBD

HSJD and ICFO members of the collaboration

ICFO and Hospital Sant Joan de Deu team up to detect early stage Invasive Bacterial Diseases Invasive bacterial diseases (IBD), responsible for illnesses such as pleuropneumonia, meningitis or bacteremia among others, are a serious threat to global health, especially to children and the elderly. Rapid diagnosis is crucial and vital for the patient because although the chances of surviving within the first hour of diagnosis are approximately 80%, this number drops radically to 30% if the detection occurs after six hours. The lack of highly sensitive or rapid techniques for proper confirmation of IBD in blood at early stages is rather complex, taking from several hours to several days to determine its presence since its initial symptoms are the same as those caused by viral diseases.

Finding a method that could detect these pathogens in a rapid and accurate way would not only enable the administration of an appropriate treatment as quickly as possible, it could also facilitate the prompt recovery of the patient, prevent the spread of these diseases, drastically reduce costs for hospitals and prevent the administration of incorrect antibiotics.

The Optoelectronics research group led by ICREA Prof at ICFO Valerio Pruneri has recently teamed up with the Department of Molecular Microbiology of the Hospital Sant Joan de Deu (HSJD), led by Dr. Carmen Muñoz-Almagro, to exploit new photonic device that could help expedite the diagnosis of IBD.

The Fundació Privada Cellex, a fervent supporter of ICFO’s research as well as a generous patron for the HSJD, was instrumental in putting this collaboration in motion. Not only has Cellex financing made possible the launch of this ambitious project, the Foundation’s interest in both institutes served as a catalyst to unite the problem, the need for quick and accurate diagnosis of IBD, with the solution, a low cost rapid photonic platform capable of analyzing the structure, size and shape of bacteria, without the use of reactants, for their semi-quantitative detection in biological samples.

As Prof. Valerio Pruneri comments“So far we made an effort in developing a new image cytometer in the lab. It is now time to assess the potential of our technology in a clinical setting. This project comes at a perfect time for us. We are thrilled to team up with such a renowned hospital and group. This synergy can potentially lead to a device that consumes low power and is affordable to clinics and medical settings even in remote areas with few resources”.

The technology is also favorably seen from the hospital’s perspective, as pointed out by Dr. Carmen Muñoz-Almagro: “We are excited to collaborate with ICFO and the group of Prof. Pruneri. Currently millions of people affected by serious infectious diseases have no access to diagnosis. The technology has the potential to detect life-threatening pathogens near the patient at an early stage and thus save many lives. It is very rewarding for us to help ICFO’s researchers turn this potential into reality”.

The project kick-off begins now in September, 2015. Throughout the first year, the team will proceed to verify the analytical performance of the device. Both ICFO and HSJD have started to carry out preliminary studies to test part of the device’s technology and have obtained very positive results. The results favor and confirm the potential impact this platform will have on early diagnosis of these illnesses that today are considered life-threating but tomorrow might possibly be seen as harmless.