June 8, 2022

Collaboration to develop new testing assay for surging infection in Michigan

Two labs at the Wayne State University School of Medicine are collaborating to develop a first-of-its-kind testing system to confront a relatively new pathogen that is increasing in southeast Michigan.

Greg Auner, Ph.D., professor of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering, and Hossein Salimnia, Ph.D., professor of Pathology and technical director of the Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases at the School of Medicine, announced the collaboration to develop a rapid screening assay for a new yeast, Candida auris.

Unknown before 2009, C. auris was first detected in Japan and has spread worldwide. It can cause infections in immune-compromised patients and in residents of long-term acute care facilities and nursing homes. It is highly pathogenic and may be resistant to some, or even all, available antifungal agents.

Rapid and accurate detection of the pathogen is crucial for patient treatment as well as for infection control and prevention of outbreaks in health care facilities.

Because southeast Michigan  is seeing a significant surge of C. auris infections, Teena Chopra, M.D., M.P.H., co-director of the Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases, with Dr. Salimnia, decided to bring the new assay to the center.

The assay will use Raman spectroscopy and artificial intelligence for rapid screening of individuals for C. auris colonization or infection. The rapid turn-around time of the assay will enable diagnostic laboratories to identify C. auris directly from patient specimens and distinguish it from other Candida species in minutes.

The collaboration between Dr. Auner’s Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems laboratory and the Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases will open the door for the application of Raman spectroscopy in clinical laboratories, emergency departments and other health care settings where rapid screening of patients is essential, said Dr. Chopra, professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, and corporate medical director of Infection Prevention, Epidemiology and Antibiotic Stewardship for WSU and the Detroit Medical Center.

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