Sandia National Lab develops device to monitor effectiveness of antibiotics 

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – There’s a tiny new piece of technology could possibly be a big help for doctors moving forward to help monitor serious viral diseases. 

“So you go to the hospital, and you have a very, very serious infection. Sometimes you’ll be given a last line of defense antibiotics,” Alex Downs, a Hruby postdoctoral fellow at Sandia National Labs. “But, if you are not dosed properly, if you don’t get enough of those medications you also may not get better from that release of you infection.”

Downs knows how complicated treating an infection can be.

“The way we currently monitor these things is we, you know, take blood draws maybe once or twice and it’s a very slow process. You take that blood, you send it down to a different lab. There’s a significant delay and finding out how much of that antibiotic is actually in your body in real time because it can vary for different people of course,” said Downs. 

That is why Downs, along with other researchers, are working on a device that can make things much easier to monitor.

“In this project we’ve been working to miniaturize sensors to fit into these really, really small microneedles such that they could be adapted to a minimally painful format for doing real time monitoring in the living body,” Downs said. 

People can wear a small sensor to know whether the medication is doing its job.

Philip Miller, a Sandia National Labs biomedical engineer who helped develop the device, says this could be a crucial tool for medical experts in the future. 

“I would have to assume you have better patient outcomes,” said Miller. “The therapeutic dosing is really, really tricky and so having a sensor to monitor that actually gives the doctor, clinicians control.”

While it’s currently intended to be used in hospitals, researchers believe this tool has the potential to do more.  

“I would see this being used either at home or in the clinic depending on you are measuring,” said Downs. “The goal here is to make a technology where you can instead of waiting and waiting and waiting and delaying treatment decisions, you can monitor in real time these really strong antibiotics to improve treatment.”

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