Photonic assay to inform treatment of urinary tract infection

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Physics


The project will investigate routes towards a simple diagnostic test that can accurately quantify bacterial load, predict antimicrobial resistance and identify the correct antibiotic for an individual's infection using Guided Mode Resonance in photonic crystals. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been identified by the UK government as a major societal threat. A key factor driving AMR is the inappropriate use of antibiotics, both due to overprescription and incorrect choice of antimicrobial therapy. In response to this threat, the aim is to develop evidence-based diagnostic technology to inform appropriate prescription of antibiotics. This will involve developing the photonic crystals for use in analyzing and detecting bacteria as well as working on physically trapping the bacteria on the device. It will also involve working with Chemists to work on the binding and use of antibiotics, Microbiologists to help understand the best way to bind and observe bacteria as well as Doctors and Health Scientists to create a functional tool for use as a point of care device.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509802/1 01/10/2016 31/03/2022
1943224 Studentship EP/N509802/1 01/10/2017 31/03/2021 Alexander Drayton
Description In the process of developing a photonic assay, there have been many useful developments so far. The device as it currently is is small enough to be handheld while only not being drastically less sensitive than its laboratory-based predecessor. This has been achieved through the development of the photonic chip as well as the peripherals that are used to compleat the setup, which includes lenses an imaging sensor and the light source.

The key area developed were the choice of the light source as initially, the choice was a laser diode however this had some significant drawbacks such as noise from its coherent nature. As the best option was to move to an LED as this would not have the same drawbacks the choice was to use a resonant cavity LED which is a technology arising from short-range data communications. This choice of the light source has provided the benefits of using a laser due to its resonant cavity with minimal drawbacks. The main drawback is the difficulty of collimating the light properly in the confined space of the device.

With regards to the end-use of the device as a device to treat urinary tract infection the decision to move from trying to match current techniques used in clinical situations. As these current methods of testing are entrenched in the health care system the new aim is to provide complementary information. This will be done by investigating two strands of Assay. One strand is to use CRP and PCT both proteins found in the body to determine the nature of the infection, viral or bacterial. The other strand is to detect the nature of a bacterial infection as to whether it is resistant to antibiotics or not.
Exploitation Route This research will have to sever aspects of development the first will be small cohort studies where it is tested with clinical samples, most likely done by further research projects. The steps beyond this are to looking in to scale up of manufacture and more in-depth clinical testing which ideally will be taken on by a spin-out company or by licensing any intellectual property to a company to produce a final product.
Sectors Healthcare

Description University of York, PhD Spotlight 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The York talks is an annual event held at the university of york, where academics present their research in TED-style 15-minute talks which the general public can attend. As part of this event, PhD students are selected to present their research in an exhibition stand where they engage with members of the public to explain there work.

I presented my work on the photonic device developed in this project that uses antibody assays to detect disease. The stand involved a working prototype of the device I have been working on as well as props to explain how the light is coupled into the device and how that is used to sense the proteins attaching to the surface. To add to the interactive nature there was also an optics puzzle for the attendees to try and align light to get an idea of the sorts of tasks I have to do on a day to day basis.

This was all with the aim of engaging the general public to see the benefits and impact of research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020