Environmental Health News

New Faculty Member Awarded Commercialization Grant for Healthcare Diagnostic Tool

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Gerard Cangelosi

Professor Gerard Cengelosi


Sarah Fish

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year in the US there are 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections (HAI). These are infections that patients acquire during the course of receiving treatment for other conditions. Approximately 1 out of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a HAI, which can sometimes be fatal. The infections contribute to 99,000 deaths annually.

Clinicians currently use microbiological culture methods to test patient samples for pathogens, looking for bacterial growth to determine the nature of a patient's infection.

"The problem with that is threefold," explained Cangelosi. There are some types of bacteria that won't grow in culture. The second problem is that culture isn't sensitive enough when the patient has been exposed to antibiotics, as is common in healthcare environments. The third problem is that the test takes one to four days to yield results.

"We think our test can detect things that culture cannot," said Cangelosi. And the test can do it in a mere four to six hours.

The technology behind the testing method—molecular viability testing—was developed in 2009. It can detect the DNA unique to each type of bacterium and determine whether bacteria present in the sample is still "viable" or capable of multiplying and causing infection.

Clinicians use culture to diagnose to monitor and screen for pathogens causing an infection. Pictured here are four nutrient agar plates growing colonies of common Gram negative bacteria. Photo: Donald Johnston

Cangelosi worked with Associate Professor Scott Meschke, Research Scientist Kris Weigel, and PhD student Clarita Lefthand-Begay on a method to detect bacteria in environmental samples from water treatment plants. Less than a year later, the technology was licensed to AttoDx, Inc, a Seattle-based company focused on developing and commercializing pathogen detection and lab-on-a-chip products.

In the current study led by Cangelosi, researchers will use the molecular test to screen samples collected from participants in a clinical trial conducted by another Seattle-based company. Performance of the prototype will be evaluated against the clinical and laboratory diagnoses.

The co-investigator on the grant is Paul Harris from AttoDx, Inc. Funding for the project comes from the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

Link to article.

About Gerard Cangelosi

Professor Gerard Cangelosi's appointment in the department began October 2012. He has worked extensively on infectious diseases, most notably in the areas of molecular diagnostics, environmental pathogens (especially detection and exposure issues), and epidemiology. His work in both public and private sectors has generated eight patents, two product launches, one start-up company launch, and more than 60 publications. These projects have addressed tuberculosis and related diseases, waterborne pathogens, enteric disease, periodontal disease, and hospital-acquired infections.

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