PathoChip: Detects Pathogens For Those At High Risk For Infection

Early detection and identification of infection is vital to the effective treatment of patients suffering with compromised immune systems and in some instances, can make the difference between life and death. No one person has the same system as another but for all of us, our immune systems are the complex and important weapons we rely on in the battle against infections, germs and cancer. Comprised of a myriad of interdependent cell types that protect the body from many types of infections, most of these diverse cells have specialized functions which kill parasites, tumors or virus-infected cells.


Immune SystemImmune System


The development of the PathoChip

According to its creators, PathoChip can test human tissue for the possible presence of thousands  of  pathogens including all known viruses, many types of bacteria, fungi, parasitic worms and protozoa. It does this via a special technology that contains 60,000 probes working simultaneously. The study concerning the development of the PathoChip was published in the journal, Cancer, Biology and Therapy.

The leader of the study was Erle Robertson, PhD, professor and vice chair of Otorrhinolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. His colleagues included: James Alwine, PhD, a professor of Cancer biology and Michael Feldman, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.


Pathogens and CellsPathogens and Cells
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There are certain pathogens that up to now doctors have not been able to identify and PathoChip has come to the rescue. One such pathogen is a rare fungus known as Rhizomucor, which causes an infection in humans (zygomycosis)  that is very difficult to treat. In this and other similar cases, diagnosis is extremely challenging because such fungal species can require a very long time to culture in a lab environment if they can be cultured at all. In the controlled study, PathoChip was able to identify a species of Rhizomucor as the cause of an infection in little over 24 hours time.

According to Erle Robertson: "We've run many tests to see if we could identify pathogens in the lab, just to see if the PathChip  has efficacy in identifying a variety of organisms, and we were able to identify all infectious agents tested...This report highlights the value of PathoChip as a diagnostic tool to identify microorganisms to the species level, especially for those difficult to identify in most clinical laboratories."


Pathogen DetectionPathogen Detection

Although there are other acceptable technologies capable of identifying unknown pathogens, such as next generation sequencing, they have major limitations. These include the need for the presence of a high level of nucleic acids in order to identify unknown pathogens and much time to analyze the specific tissue.

According once again to Robertson, "We think the PathoChip is complementary to next generation sequencing in some ways, and even more finely tuned, because we have a much higher sensitivity in detecting agents or individual organisims present in any kind of sample, whether it's abiotic or biotic. We can identify agents in soil, plant tissue,animal or human tissue."

The future of the PathoChip

The PathoChip holds much promise for clinical use but according to its creators still needs more studies before treatment strategies can be effectively planned. Still, the PathoChip is a major step in the right direction and worthy of admiration.

Can you think of of ways humans can fortify their immune systems?

Closing thoughts on innovation:
Changes call for innovation, and innovation leads to progress. ~ Li Keqian