Rethinking Healthcare

Tiny sensors provide a quick test for MRSA

Posting in Healthcare

An small strip of electronic sensors provides a convenient test for the troublesome staph infection.

MRSA is one particularly nasty staph infection. The bacteria enters your body through a cut or a sore. Then there's pus, there's pain, there's fever, and there's little relief from antibiotics.

If you wise up to your MRSA infection early on, you can sometimes get rid of it just by draining the skin infection (yes, still gross). But once MRSA advances, you'll likely have to spend some time in the hospital dealing with intravenous drugs, kidney dialysis, and an oxygen tank.

Scottish researchers have a developed a small strip of electronic sensors that detect MRSA.

In conventional tests, doctors take a swab from your infected wound, then process the swab in a laboratory to check for MRSA bacteria. This can take a full day to complete.

The new electronic sensor strip could lead to immediate at-home MRSA testing. The researchers hope that by making MRSA testing easier, patients will be more likely to test for it earlier on, when the bacteria is easier to treat.

Researchers originally developed the sensor test on foot ulcers of diabetic patients. MRSA is more likely to necesitate amputation in people with diabetes. An at-home test for the bacteria could provide diabetes patients with a valuable tool to prevent the need for such life-altering surgery.

Photo: Eric E. Castro/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure