Smartphone, M.D.

A new app developed by UCSB researchers enables a smartphone to ID bacteria in just one hour.

September 20, 2018
Smartphone, M.D. Credit: Peter Allen, Kevin Fisher, Brian Long
Smartphone, M.D. Credit: Peter Allen, Kevin Fisher, Brian Long

In a potential game changer for the health care industry, a new cell phone app and lab kit now allow a smartphone to identify bacteria from patients anywhere in the world. With the new app, doctors will be able to diagnose diseases and prescribe the appropriate antibiotic within a one-hour office visit, meaning faster recovery — and lower treatment costs — for patients. Developed by a research team led by MCDB professor Michael Mahan, the study “Smartphone-based pathogen diagnosis in urinary sepsis patients” was published in the journal EbioMedicine. The detection system succeeded in achieving rapid diagnosis of urinary tract infections — among the most common type of infection globally. The app uses a smartphone’s camera to measure a chemical reaction and determines a diagnosis in about an hour — and the simple, low-cost test can be performed in the world’s most remote locations.

Developed by a research team of UC Santa Barbara scientists and colleagues, the study “Smartphone-based pathogen diagnosis in urinary sepsis patients” was published in the journal EbioMedicine. The detection system succeeded in achieving rapid diagnosis of urinary tract infections — among the most common type of infection globally. The app uses a smartphone’s camera to measure a chemical reaction and determines a diagnosis in about an hour — and the simple, low-cost test can be performed in the world’s most remote locations.

The project was led by professors Michael Mahan of UC Santa Barbara and Tom Soh of Stanford University, along with Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital physicians Jeffrey Fried, M.D. and Lynn Fitzgibbons, M.D. Additional collaborators include UCSB scientists Lucien Barnes, Douglas Heithoff, Scott Mahan, Gary Fox and Jamey Marth — who is also also a professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) — as well as Cottage Hospital scientists Andrea Zambrano, M.D., and Jane Choe.