Ingenious wound-scanning tool makes infectious bacteria glow in the dark

Harmful bacteria in wounds is bad news for both patients and the physicians who are treating them. Fortunately, a breakthrough handheld “wound intelligence” device promises to make checking wounds for difficult-to-spot bacteria a whole lot easier. Called the MolecuLight i:X, the handheld device is a smart imaging tool which can both document wounds and also play a key part in their treatment.

To begin with, users of the MolecuLight i:X snap a close-up image of the wound under normal light conditions. This image doesn’t show the location of bacteria, although it can be a useful reference guide to show doctors how a wound is healing up. The real brilliance starts when the lights are turned off, and the MolecuLight i:X is used to take another image, this time using safe violet light which causes bacteria to glow in the dark. The bacterial fluorescence signals detected by the device can be used by healthcare professionals to indicate the presence of bacteria, its bacterial load, and its location within and around wounds in real time. That gives doctors some additional tools in their arsenal, such as the ability to immediately spot the border of wounds or to carry out instant precise wound measurements.

According to the makers of MolecuLight, the results are 54 percent more accurate than swabbing. A clinical trial carried out in Toronto suggests that using the device can also lead to nine times faster healing for wounds, compared to the healing which takes place under standard treatments.

This isn’t the only smart use bacteria-tracking device currently making waves. Recently, we covered a smart microscope developed by Harvard University researchers, which uses machine learning technology to spot and identify bacterial infections, thereby allowing patients to get treatment more speedily. What makes the MolecuLight i:X so nifty, however, is its portability, which helps make it the perfect diagnostic tool for a doctor on either a busy ward or even out in the field — provided they’re able to get the requisite darkness for it to operate under.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to access it in the United States for the time being. That’s because it is currently approved for use in Canada and the European Union only, although hopefully, that will change in the near future.

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