Microfluidics and biosensors to tackle antibiotic resistance

A little biosensor can analyze if there are antibiotics in your blood in 10 minutes. Developed by researchers from the University of Freiburg, the system could be used to develop a personalized course of antibiotics, but also to test food and water. The objective? Slow down the rise of multi-resistant bacteria.

Almost ready to join the fight against superbugs is an electrochemical biosensor platform, developed at the University of Freiburg, Germany. This device was able to test the presence of two common antibiotics, tetracycline and streptogramin, in small samples of human blood. The success of this proof-of-concept study is now published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

The system is inspired by the biological mechanism of antibiotic resistance itself. It repurposed a sensor protein that enables resistant bacteria to recognize antibiotics and activate their defense mechanisms. The microfluidic chips can measure up to 8 different substances at the same time, have a shelf life of 3 months. The analysis itself that takes only 10 minutes.

Microfluidics Antibiotic yole

The most immediate application of these microfluidic chips is in the clinic, as a point-of-care test. The next step of research is to develop a method to determine how quickly the human body breaks down antibiotics, thus enabling the dosage to be adjusted to each patient. This personalized take on antibiotics not only improves the treatment, but also gives pathogens less ‘chances’ to become resistant. The devices could also be used in environmental and food safety testing, to analyse potential contaminations of food and water – a result of intensive use of antibiotics in agriculture.

biosensor Antibiotic yole

Diagram of the microfluidic chip, with up to 8 assays that detect the presence of different substances and create an electrical signal.

Therefore, this chip could provide a simple way to monitor the presence of antibiotics in ourselves and the environment, tackling the root causes of the antibiotic resistance threat. It would certainly be a worthy addition to this Biotech fight, that goes from better diagnostics to novel antibiotics, some directly targeting resistance mechanisms, and more exotic solutions like bacteriophages and CRISPR.