Date of Award

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Bioengineering

Committee Member

Delphine Dean, Ph.D., Committee Chair

Committee Member

John DesJardins, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Zhi Gao, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tong Ye, Ph.D.

Abstract

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that waterborne diseases alone account for over 3.4 million deaths per year. With such a high mortality, the need to provide a fast and accurate means of identifying the cause of the microbial infection is fundamental to the quality of care and paramount to public health. In resource-poor settings a shortage of clinics pose a major problem, as patients are required to travel long distances, many of which cannot afford the return trip to retrieve their test results. Between visits most clinics are limited to microscopic analyses, telehistology, or media-based metabolic tests, which can take as long as a week. In addition, less-monitored water supplies in these areas become breeding grounds for bacteria that can affect an entire community. Overall the developing world lacks the advanced pathogen detection and water treatment technology of first world countries. Due to the costs and training associated with such technology, it is not feasible for the developing world to house these advancements. Recently there has been a push to provide affordable devices for these countries. Although diagnostics have made improvements in recent years, there is still a need for quick and more affordable tests to identify microbial infectious agents.

The basis of the proposed technology allows the individual to identify the presence of a waterborne pathogen within 10-15 minutes, much less than the traditional time-consuming cell culture technique. Scientific literature confirms that lectins, specifically sugar-binding plant proteins, have been observed to agglutinate with a variety of pathogens. With this binding as a foundation, the group has successfully designed impedimetric biosensors that respond via a change in resistance when foreign pathogens are introduced. Proof of concept testing has confirmed the technology's ability to detect for the presence of pathogens at clinically relevant concentrations.

In the future this impedimetric technology can be used for the development of two novel devices: 1. a low-cost point-of-care clinical diagnostic for measuring and identifying the presence of pathogenic agents and 2. a low-cost in-line system for automated remote testing of biological contamination in water systems.

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