A new portable device can quickly find markers of deadly, unpredictable sepsis infection from a single drop of blood. A team of researchers completed a clinical study of the device, which is the first to provide rapid, point-of-care measurement of the immune system’s response, without any need to process the blood. This can help doctors identify sepsis at its onset, monitor infected patients, and could even point to a prognosis.

Rapid test for sepsis counts white blood cells and certain protein markers.
(Credit: Janet Sinn-Hanlon)

The small, lab-on-a-chip device counts white blood cells in total as well as specific white blood cells called neutrophils, and measures a protein marker called CD64 on the surface of neutrophils. The levels of CD64 surge as the patient’s immune response increases. Results from the rapid test correlated well with the results from the traditional tests and with the patients’ vital signs.

The team is working to incorporate measurements for other inflammation markers into the rapid-testing device to give a more complete picture of the body’s response, and to enable earlier detection.