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Virus-based sensors find superbugs in minutes, may lead to safer surfaces

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 8, 2013
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Viruses usually have to be rendered inert to work in humanity's favor, as anyone who has received a flu shot can attest. Auburn University has bucked that trend by discovering a way to put active viruses to work in not only diagnosing sickness, but in preventing it in the first place. It's using bacteria-hating (and thankfully harmless) viruses as biosensors to quickly identify superbugs, or antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can sometimes prove fatal. As the viruses change color once they've reached impervious bacterial strains, in this case variants on Staphylococcus, they can reveal superbugs within 10 to 12 minutes -- a potentially lifesaving interval when current purification-driven methods can take hours. Auburn would like to eventually use what it has learned to develop more effective antibacterial glass and similar surfaces. If successfully put into practice, either breakthrough could mitigate what's already a major medical crisis.

[Image credit: Bob Blaylock, Wikipedia]

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