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Rapid diagnostic for bacterial infections [Offre de technologie]

The technology in a nutshell

New fast technique for extraction and detection of bacterial RNA like pneumocoques or otitis in patient blood by quantitative PCR (qPCR).

State of the art

Current microbiological diagnosis of bacterial infections is mainly based on the inoculation of clinical specimens on specific media and the detection of microbiological growth. The time required to receive the first results vary from 24 to 48 hours. An alternative to the need to grow a microorganism consists in detecting the presence of its DNA in the clinical specimen. This diagnostic technique is faster than culture, but often lacks sensitivity and/or specificity. Therefore, its clinical relevance suffers from serious limitations. Another option, so far unexplored in clinical diagnosis, would be to detect the presence of bacterial specific RNA in the clinical sample. This technique is experimentally difficult because of the instability of the RNA molecule but has the fundamental advantages of detecting live bacteria (which actively replicates) and identifying genes that are expressed by the bacteria (such as antibiotic resistance genes). All these results can be obtained in less than two hours time. The clinical potential of such RNA diagnostic tests is very significant and could significantly improve the management of patients with infectious diseases.

The invention

Our laboratory has developed a new technique for extraction and detection of bacterial RNA in patient blood by quantitative PCR (qPCR). The value of this promising technique has been evaluated on 117 patients with pneumonia. While the classical diagnostic test for such infection (Blood culture) only allowed identifying the bacteria in 16% of the patients, our new diagnostic test detected the presence of bacterial RNA in 52% of them. Further improvements of the test are being made to allow for the detection of a broader array of bacterial pathogens and their antibiotic resistance profiles.

Key advantages of the technology

  • Rapid diagnostic (2 hours versus 48 hours with the classical diagnostic)
  • Detect more cases (better sensitivity)
  • Simultaneous detection of antibiotic resistance profile

Commercial interest

  • New and fast diagnostic tool for bacterial infection

The inventor

Dr Pierre Smeesters is a paediatrician and microbiology researcher with a strong clinical background in paediatric infectious diseases. As demonstrated by his multidisciplinary publication record, his expertise ranges from basic science to clinical infectious disease. Based on this work, Dr Smeesters was awarded the triennial GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals Award from the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine in June 2013. Dr Smeester’s international profile is also demonstrated by his position as the Chair of the European Society of Paediatric Infectious Disease Master Class, by his appointments in international initiatives and by his recent International Influence Award from ULB.

Laboratory: Bacterial Genetics and Physiology Laboratory

The Bacterial Genetics and Physiology Laboratory is part of the ‘Institut de Biologie et de Médecine Moléculaires’ (IBMM) of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. This institute is composed of 14 laboratories working in various fields such as microbiology, immunology, parasitology and development. Our lab has a long-standing know-how in bacterial genetics and mobile genetic elements. We have developed a translational research line in the field of bacterial infections that aims to provide clinically relevant outcomes based on our basic science expertise.

More info about the lab


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Mis à jour le 14 septembre 2020