Shramik Sengupta, PhD and John Pardalos, MD

Principal Investigators

Shramik Sengupta, PhD

Department of Bioengineering

John Pardalos, MD

Department of Child Health

Shramik Sengupta, PhD, (left)
and John Pardalos, MD

Electrical system for the rapid detection of viable bacteria in blood cultures

About 18 million blood culture tests are performed each year in the US. Virtually every hospital has a blood culture unit, to conduct a test to ascertain the presence of viable microorganisms in blood. Blood stream infections can lead to inflammation that, if untreated, can progress to sepsis. More than 751,000 cases of severe sepsis occur each year in the U.S., out of which 383,000 (51.1%) require intensive care, and 215,000 (28.6%) are fatal. Because of the low concentration of viable bacteria present when symptoms are manifested and/or blood is drawn, and the presence of large amounts of human and bacterial DNA in blood, the standard clinical protocol calls for a three-step diagnostic process.

The first step, blood culture, is used to merely detect the presence of viable microorganisms. The second step is microbial identification, and the final step is antibiotic susceptibility profiling. The key clinical intervention, the administration of targeted antibiotic, can be accomplished only after step 2, microbial ID. However, while microbial ID typically takes less than one day, the bottle-neck to quicker diagnosis remains the first step (blood culture) that takes one to five days.

Our technology promises to reduce the time for blood culture to two to 24 hours, instead of the one to five days currently taken, thus saving an average of one to three days in this first step towards diagnosis and intervention. The technology has been licensed to ImpeDx Diagnostics. ImpeDx recently received a $2.9 million Small Business Innovation Research grant to continue development of the technology.