Biosensor sought for better treatment of bacterial infections

Bacterial infections are becoming ever more difficult to fight with antibiotics, as bacterial resistance increases. Biosensors can help to reduce the incorrect use of antibiotics by establishing the appropriate dosage for each patient. To accelerate the search for such biosensors, on September 7 and 8 at TU Eindhoven for the third time the international student competition SensUs will be held, organized by TU/e students. Thirteen teams from twelve counties will do battle to produce the best biosensor for measuring the antibiotic vancomycin, a last resort for patients with, say, the hospital-acquired infection MRSA.

Biosensors are small instruments capable of detecting in a droplet of blood, quickly and simply, the presence of substances that can be indicators of sickness and health. The glucose meter for diabetes patients is an example of a biosensor that is already widely used. Being compact and able to convey information quickly, biosensors can help care providers make rapid treatment choices and offer more personalized care.

More careful use of antibiotics

Biosensors foster the more careful and effective use of antibiotics. At present patients are often given standard doses, which for some individuals may be too low (so that the bacterial infection is not treated effectively and antibiotic resistance occurs) or too high (which is harmful to health). As it takes roughly a day to take bloods and have them tested in a laboratory, dosages cannot be adjusted quickly and effectively. A biosensor would make it possible to measure the concentration of antibiotic quickly and easily and adjust the medicine dosage immediately, thus allowing for the correct dosage moment to moment.

SensUs 2018

The aim of the SensUs 2018 student competition is to accelerate the development of just such a biosensor. The assignment for the thirteen participating student teams from twelve countries (including the T.E.S.T. team from TU Eindhoven) is to develop a biosensor for the antibiotic vancomycin. It is vital that this medicine is used with care, given that for patients with the hospital-acquired infection MRSA, for example, it is a last resort.

According to Menno Prins, TU/e professor of molecular biosensors and founder of the competition, it is not easy to develop a sensor like this. “You need a technique that is fast, precise and reliable. It must be easy to use in practice and cost-effective to make.” Student teams in particular, he sees, tend to come up with highly creative ideas. “Their thinking is multidisciplinary and they are unparalleled in bringing together elements that you need to arrive at a successful prototype.”

Commercial side

The competition is being held for the third year. Like last year, a digital platform SensUs Digital offers audiences worldwide the chance to follow the action and vote for their favorite team. “This year there will also be plenty of attention for the commercial side of biosensors,” says Maritza Rovers, one of the students organizing SensUs 2018. “For example, students will be making pitches about their business model, startups will speak about their experiences, and with a meet-the-partner event we will be bringing together students and businesses.”

The competition is spread over two days. On Friday September 7 the testing of the biosensors will take place. The Saturday is geared more to the general public and the prize-giving. On both days there will be lectures, pitches and an information market. The public is welcome to attend on both days and entry is free of charge. The location is the Auditorium building on the TU/e campus. For more information and to register to vote, please visit the SensUs website.