Although there already are methods of determining if someone has an infection, those methods have their limitations. Scientists from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have developed what they believe is a better technique, which incorporates electrochemistry.

Currently, clinicians will often check for infections using test strips that change color when exposed to infected clear biological fluids. According to UTSA's Prof. Waldemar Gorski, however, it's a somewhat subjective process, as users gauge the level of infection based on how they perceive the hue and deepness of the color.

Additionally, the technique doesn't work on approximately one third of samples, due to the fact that they are too opaque or contain blood.

Another way of detecting infections involves using a microscope to count the number of leukocytes (white blood cells) present in biological fluid samples – the higher the number, the more severe the infection. Performing such counts is time-consuming, though, and requires special training.

With that in mind, Gorski teamed up with associate professor Stanton McHardy to produce molecules that bind to leukocyte enzymes and produce an electrical current. These molecules are contained on a test strip that is exposed to a patient's fluid sample, and then connected to a computer. A program on that computer displays all the electrochemical responses, clearly and objectively indicating the severity of any infection.

"The signs and symptoms people demonstrate aren't always reflective of the level of the infection they have," says McHardy. "This method could very easily show just how serious an infection is and make diagnosis a much quicker process, possibly preventing a more serious illness."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ChemBioChem.