bacterial blood infectionsA new test for meningitis, which could help deliver faster and more effective treatments for patients, has been developed, led by researchers at the University of Strathclyde.

The test aims to combat the major challenge of treating meningitis – that of time. The onset of meningitis is often rapid and severe, particularly when a bacterial infection is the cause, and the researchers hope the new test could speed up diagnosis, leading to better outcomes for patients.

The test uses a spectroscopic imaging technique called SERS to identify the bacteria in a single sample, with a view to analysing cerebral spinal fluid from patients suspected to have meningitis. Then, by using a series of DNA probes containing dyes detectable by SERS, this made it possible to single out the different pathogens, three types of which – Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidisis – were tested for.

The researchers believe such an approach could be of huge benefit in treating cases where co-infection of multiple meningitis species is common and identifying the dominant pathogen present would allow targeted treatment.

This also reduces the need for broadband antibiotics, overuse of which is increasing bacterial resistance. Combining the SERS technique with chemometrics – data-driven extraction of information from chemical systems – means the amount of bacteria in a sample can be measured whilst simultaneously identifying the bacteria.

Dr Karen Faulds, a Reader in Strathclyde’s Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, led the study. She said: “Meningitis is a hugely virulent and, in some forms, potentially highly dangerous infection. The type of antibiotic used to treat it depends on the strain of meningitis, so it is essential to identify this as quickly as possible.

“The great advantage of the SERS technique is that it gives sharp, recognisable signals, like finger printing, so we can more easily discriminate what analytes – or chemical substances – are present in a mixture.”

Read the full study at: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2014/SC/c3sc52875h#!divAbstract