Bringing the diagnostic lab right to your barn
University of Calgary develops new method for testing for infections in animals and people
By Kate Ayers
University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) researchers have created a diagnostic tool that quickly and easily tests for infections in animals and humans.
This new method tests for signs of infection, like specific antibodies in blood, saliva or milk samples, according to a University of Calgary release on Tuesday.
The new device is portable and offers a fast and inexpensive way to test animals for chronic and infectious diseases. It also does not require complex sample preparation or handling, the release said.
This technology has many potential applications, allowing veterinarians to diagnose livestock out in a pasture or people to monitor their health in their own homes.
“The big benefit to producers in the cattle, swine or poultry industries, as well as to veterinarians, is that they will be able to get diagnostic results much faster than what is currently possible,” Jeroen De Buck, an associate professor at UCVM, said to Farms.com today.
“For some of the chronic infections that result in production-limiting diseases, it is beneficial to have frequent monitoring and fast results.”
De Buck and Marija Drikic, a PhD student, developed their biosensor technology from the concept of a glucometer – the device that measures blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Their TreAsure Assays Biosensor uses an engineered enzyme to convert signals of infection into glucose, according to the release. The device then measures the glucose to give the user quantitative information which can be analyzed to see how active the infection is.
“A cow infected with bovine leukemia virus produces antibodies as a response,” De Buck said in the release.
“Our biosensor will detect the antibodies in a pin-prick of blood. The enzyme will make glucose proportionally to the antibodies that can be instantaneously measured.”
The researchers are now testing prototypes of the device and are looking to bring the technology to market, according to the release.
They are developing a hand-held version of the device with the capability to send results to a cellphone, making the biosensor “fully user-friendly,” De Buck said to Farms.com.
The researchers’ work has been supported through funding from NSERC, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, and Alberta Milk.
De Buck and Drikic describe their sensor in greater detail in last month’s edition of the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering.
Photo credit: Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
Updated Mar. 15, 2018