New blood test can detect risk of infection

Scientists may have a taken a big step forward in fighting infection by developing a a device that helps detect a person's risk of infection in a matter of minutes.

Published in the journal Technology, the research by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital found that measuring the migration of neutrophils in the blood can quickly detect if infection is present in the body.

This method is slightly different than the usual testing done now. Neutrophils are a specific white blood cell found in the bloodstream that is often called “the body’s first line of defense,” particularly against inflammation and infection. Within minutes of infection, neutrophils rush to the infected tissue site to begin the healing process. Current practice is to measure the neutrophil count levels in the blood. A low count usually means an infection is present. This testing can take up to two hours and requires skilled technicians.

To speed up the process and provide more efficient testing, scientists decided to hone in on the migration of neutrophils, instead of the amount. So they created a miniature silicone-based device to measure the velocity and direction of neutrophils from a single drop of blood. That can tell them much more quickly if an infection is present.

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