Hey there! It's our favorite time of the month and we're coming to you with another installment of #Macademics! This month I decided to talk about how this lab at Colorado State is using paper to detect false antibiotics. I won't go into a crazyyyy amount of detail, but I'll give you enough to understand the gist of what's happening.
So you first may be asking, why they're using paper to do this type of testing when there are so many other sophisticated techniques out there. Well, paper is attractive because it's cheap and versatile. It's made up of cellulose, whose surface composition is perfect for modifications - which can help increase sensitivity of the analysis you're doing. Paper-based tests are also being used because they're portable. A patient can deposit their biological fluid sample at home, ship the test, and then a lab can easily analyze the device. Outside of that type of testing, pharmaceutical drug testing is another widely used application for paper-based devices.
So here's how this test works:
There's an enzyme, beta-lactamase, that is produced by bacteria that gives them resistance to antibiotics, which is what they used as a marker for the detection of antibiotics on this platform. The user dissolves the antibiotic in water and adds it to the paper device, which has a molecule called nitrocefin on it that changes color when it reacts with the enzyme. There's a competition reaction between the antibiotic and the nitrocefin to bind to the enzyme in the detection zone.
If the sample contains a good dose antibiotic, there is little color change on the paper strip - the antibiotic beats the nitrocefin for binding. But if it's a false antibiotic, or one with weak dosage, the paper turns reds because the enzyme reacts with the nitrocefin ( as shown above). The device also has a pH indicator to determine if the sample is acidic or not. This is good because it could give you additional information about whether or not the sample has filler ingredients.
Overall, this test only takes about 15 minutes, which is fast, and you don't have to be a trained professional to conduct it. Pretty cool, right?
Hopefully, you learned a little something about how you could use something as simple as paper to tell the difference between real or fake drugs.
See you next week!