Yale Students Develop Rapid Bacteria Detector

By Carlton Purvis

The low cost of testing using the alpha screen will be beneficial to developing countries, Weber said—countries where a timely diagnosis could mean the difference between life and death. The device will allow doctor’s offices to make diagnoses in real-time.

For the food industry, the alpha screen has very promising applications as well, she said. “We hope that the alpha-screen technology…will help prevent disease outbreaks, like the 2011 Listeria outbreak in the U.S. and the E. coli outbreak in Germany. We anticipate that alpha-screen will have dramatic implications for domestic and international food security,” she said.

The alpha screen is still in its development stages. The basic version is a battery-powered device about the size of a coin. It can only detect one or two types of bacteria. “However, to meet the needs of prospective customers we have also designed a larger unit, which could detect simultaneously over 100 different types of bacteria,” Weber said.

The team is working to raise funds for further development and prospective commercialization. Earlier this month, they moved $20,000 closer to that goal after winning the Create the Future design contest. The contest awarded prizes to recognize research efforts in engineering focused on benefitting humanity, the environment, and the economy. More than 900 product ideas from 50 countries were entered.

Weber said she hopes the publicity for their work will pay off for the project.

“We hope to attract people and institutions that would sponsor research and investors to move the project along,” Weber said.

Weber’s isn’t the first endeavor focused on rapid bacteria detection. Researchers in the past have spent years developing similar technologies.

photo from Yale News

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