ZyGEM Corp. Ltd., has introduced its new microbial fingerprinting diagnostic technology that is expected to dramatically reduce the complexity and time needed to identify unknown infectious agents in mixed population samples. The approach is designed to run on the company's new MicroLab platform and has the potential to accurately identify up to 30 types of microbes simultaneously from a single sample in less than an hour. ZyGEM CEO Paul Kinnon introduced the company's microbial fingerprinting approach during a panel at the 2010 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Identifying infectious agents in samples that contain many types of microorganisms, such as in samples with suspected genital tract infections, is especially challenging. Current testing methods are complex and costly and require several days to generate results. Worse, some infections are diagnosed using microscopic methods with questionable reliability, resulting in poor diagnoses that can lead to delays in treatment and higher healthcare costs. In contrast, the microbial fingerprinting assay run on the new ZyGEM/MicroLab platform uses a catalog of DNA markers to accurately identify multiple microbial infectious agents in a single reaction that is expected to take less than an hour from sample to answer.
"Our DNA microbial fingerprinting platform is a premier example of the transformational potential of combining our unique assays and reagents with MicroLab's revolutionary microfluidic device," said Mr. Kinnon. "ZyGEM's integrated system can rapidly produce accurate microbial profiles from mixed samples of unknown origin in a single step, compared to the multi-step, multiple-instrument, many-hours-long process that is required today."
The ZyGEM system combines ZyGEM's proprietary DNA extraction and microbial detection technologies with PCR amplification in a single automated reaction that occurs in its integrated ZyGEM/MicroLab microfluidic device. This device miniaturizes the entire DNA testing process within a single closed system, which significantly reduces the amount of sample and reagents needed while virtually eliminating the chance for handling error or contamination.
ZyGEM researchers have developed a catalog of "fingerprints," or DNA markers, for a broad range of microorganisms. Special software developed for the system uses these fingerprints to identify and discriminate between the microorganisms in mixed microbial populations. ZyGEM has also developed complementary technology that enables the approach to accurately identify microbes from dilute samples.
Mr. Kinnon continued, "Identifying unknown microbial infectious agents accurately, rapidly and cost-effectively is an area of major unmet need for clinicians and researchers. Our microbial fingerprinting technology will address that need with unprecedented performance attributes. It works equally well on challenging specimens, and it can identify microbial pathogens at the genus and species levels, even in mixed populations. We believe the combination of accuracy, speed, simplicity, flexibility and cost-effectiveness achievable with our microbial fingerprinting technology will make it the platform of choice for a wide variety of detection applications. We are continuing to advance the development of this important technology with the goal of commercializing it within the next few years."
The ZyGEM/MicroLab system can perform multiplexed analyses and can also be configured for specific applications. Its small size and ease-of-use make it suitable for applications both in the laboratory and in the field. Portable handheld versions are in development.
Forensic DNA data presented at a recent scientific meeting demonstrated that a prototype of the ZyGEM/MicroLab device produced accurate results in less than an hour. The results were comparable to those obtained with current technology that requires three separate instruments and five to 10 hours of processing time. The new technology has the potential to revolutionize DNA testing for many applications where accuracy, speed and ease-of-use are critical, including clinical research and point-of-care diagnostics.