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Chang Yeol Lee†, Ismail Degani†, Jiyong Cheong†, Ralph Weissleder, Jae-Hyun Lee, Jinwoo Cheon*, and Hakho Lee* († equally contributed)
Development of Integrated Systems for On-Site Infection Detection
Acc. Chem. Res., 54 (21), 3991–4000
Date: Nov 2, 2021


 The modern healthcare system faces an unrelenting threat from microorganisms, as evidenced by global outbreaks of new viral diseases, emerging antimicrobial resistance, and the rising incidence of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). An effective response to these threats requires rapid and accurate diagnostic tests that can identify causative pathogens at the point of care (POC). Such tests could eliminate diagnostic uncertainties, facilitating patient triaging, minimizing the empiric use of antimicrobial drugs, and enabling targeted treatments. Current standard methods, however, often fail to meet the needs of rapid diagnosis in POC settings. Culture-based assays entail long processing times and require specialized laboratory infrastructure; nucleic acid (NA) tests are often limited to centralized hospitals due to assay complexity and high costs. Here we discuss two new POC tests developed in our groups to enable the rapid diagnosis of infection. The first is nanoPCR that takes advantages of core–shell magnetoplasmonic nanoparticles (MPNs): (i) Au shell significantly accelerates thermocycling via volumetric, plasmonic light-to-heat conversion and (ii) a magnetic core enables sensitive in situ fluorescent detection via magnetic clearing. By adopting a Ferris wheel module, the system expedites multisamples in parallel with a minimal setup. When applied to COVID-19 diagnosis, nanoPCR detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA down to 3.2 copy/μL within 17 min. In particular, nanoPCR diagnostics accurately identified COVID-19 cases in clinical samples (n = 150), validating its clinical applicability. The second is a polarization anisotropy diagnostic (PAD) system that exploits the principle of fluorescence polarization (FP) as a detection modality. Fluorescent probes were designed to alter their molecular weight upon recognizing target NAs. This event modulates the probes’ tumbling rate (Brownian motion), which leads to changes in FP. The approach is robust against environmental noise and benefits from the ratiometric nature of the signal readout. We applied PAD to detect clinically relevant HAI bacteria (Escherichia coliKlebsiella pneumoniaeAcinetobacter baumanniiPseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus). The PAD assay demonstrated detection sensitivity down to the single bacterium level and determined both drug resistance and virulence status. In summary, these new tests have the potential to become powerful tools for rapid diagnosis in the infectious disease space. They do not require highly skilled personnel or labor-intensive analyses, and the assays are quick and cost-effective. These attributes will make nanoPCR and PAD well-aligned with a POC workflow to aid physicians to initiate prompt and informed patient treatment.

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