At a recent Bio2DeviceGroup (www.bio2devicegroup.org) event, Kevin Hacker, CEO of BioAffinity Sciences talked about their new technology that when fully developed will identify pathogens more than 100 times faster than the traditional blood culture and related technologies currently in use.
Every year, in the US, 500 thousand people die due to sepsis related complications. Sepsis is a final common pathway for many infections, particularly when an individual’s immunity is low. Body normally releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight an infection. When the body’s response to these chemicals is out of balance, it results in Sepsis. That is when body’s immune system launches a massive counter attack that harms body’s own tissues and organs. The triggering changes begin to damage body’s vital organ systems that results in dramatic drop in the blood pressure, ultimately leading to death.
Sepsis and septic shock are more common if the individual is very young or very old, have a compromised immune system, have diabetes or cirrhosis, is already sick and frequently in a hospital intensive care unit, have wounds or injuries or severe burns, have invasive devices inserted into the body, and have previously received antibiotics or corticosteroids. Often people can recover from mild sepsis. However, if the body goes into septic shock, the average mortality rate for septic shock is about 40%. Additionally, an episode of severe sepsis may place a person at higher risk of future infections.
Given that widespread infections can progress to Sepsis and Sepsis shock in a matter of few hours, it is imperative that such infections be treated immediately with antibiotics. When given the right antibiotics, there is often a dramatic improvement and speed of cure.
Problem with speedy identification of pathogens
Given that early treatment of sepsis is associated with vastly improved outcomes, rapid diagnosis is essential. However blood culture work is slow and often takes 1-3 days. The diagnosis of sepsis in critically ill patients, housed in hospitals is also challenging because it can be complicated by the presence of inflammation resulting from other underlying diseases and from prior use of antibiotics, making cultures negative. Most testing is done through mass spectrometry that gives mass to charge ratio of ions. Since culture-dependent diagnosis of infection is slow, sometimes patients are given antibiotics, before the results of the culture are available. Patients are given broad spectrum antibiotics and 40% are not effective. In such instances, antibiotics are withdrawn after one cycle of treatment, when the cause of the illness is found to be something else and this can lead to antibiotic resistance.
Bioaffinity Sciences solution will be able to identify pathogens within 10 minutes, 430 fold faster than blood culture. This is cell affinity based, low cost technology. Pathogens are run through microchannels comprising of a surface- grafted scaffold of reactive polymer onto which affinity molecules (sugars, aptamers, vancomycin, and methicillin) have been bio-conjugated. High capacity of the channels allows low numbers of microbes to be quickly identified. The unknown pathogen’s pattern of binding to the channels is recorded, and this pattern is compared to a library of known pathogens. When a match is made, the identity of the pathogen is reported. In addition to speed, this is also more sensitive in terms of the number of different pathogens detected than blood culture.
Disease burden to the healthcare system in the US due to Sepsis
Sepsis management is a major challenge and results in disproportionately high burden in terms of hospital utilization. The average length of stay for sepsis patients in the US is approximately 75% greater than for other conditions. The cost of sepsis management ranks highest among hospital admissions for all disease states. The cost is estimated to be between $25 billion and $27 billion, and represents 13% of total US hospital costs.
Considering that poor sepsis outcomes are directly tied to the delay in diagnosis and treatment, such a dramatic improvement in speed and accuracy of diagnosis leading to speedy and accurate treatment can not only dramatically improve outcome and quality of patient care but also significantly reduce cost of care for hospitals.
The talk was followed by Q&A.