Other, more advanced technology already offers much faster turnaround than the Nanologix plates. Polymerase chain reaction machines can identify infection in as little as 30 minutes, fast enough for use between onset of labor and delivery. But such machines can be pricey, as can the individual tests, and the technology isn’t always available in community hospitals. In contrast, the Nanologix test kits cost between $5 and $10, just slightly more than the customary test, and can be done in any hospital lab. Barnhizer says the company also has developed kits that can detect E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and more; Nanologix plans to submit the first test (for GBS and other gram-positive bacteria) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later this year, with hopes for approval by the first quarter of 2012.
Nanologix is also working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop kits that can be used during outbreaks for faster, more reliable detection of waterborne microorganisms such as E. coli and cryptosporidium. “It’s a really good technique, because it shortens a process of 12 to 18 hours to five or six, so we can get an answer about whether our target bacterium is there or not within a day,” says Gerard Stelma Jr., a senior microbiologist with the EPA in Cincinnati. Not only are currently available tests slow, he says, but their effectiveness also varies from day to day. “When I saw what they were doing, I thought this is the most novel new method I have seen in a number of years.”