Many of the horribly severe wounds of combat warriors that were once fatal are now survivable due to better medical techniques in war zone clinics and hospitals. Still, the wounds are breeding grounds for infection, says Alison Scott.
"Often before current diagnostic methods can identify the bacteria in an infection those patients may suffer severe consequences," says Scott, a second-year doctoral student in the laboratory of Robert Ernst, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis in the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.
Scott wants to streamline clinical diagnostic tests to help save lives. For her laboratory study of targeting certain lipids in pathogens, Scott has been awarded the 2012 Translational Graduate Research Award from the University of Maryland Office of Research and Development (ORD) in Baltimore, with a prize of $500.
Open wounds are full of harmful bacteria, Scott says, and diagnosing the infections is complicated due to the potential presence of multiple bacterial species. Typically attending medical personnel culture a swab from the wound and have to wait up to a day for the bacteria culture to grow. The culprit bacteria can then be treated with appropriate medicines, she says.
At the annual UM Graduate Research Conference on April 5, Scott demonstrated on her award-winning research poster that certain fatty molecules, or lipids, in all bacteria may provide a more rapid identification. "I am determining how these lipids can add to our testing," she says. "We can increase the accuracy of the tests hopefully."
Scott is a native of Michigan and attended Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, before earning admission to the University of Maryland Graduate Program in Molecular Microbiology & Immunology.
"This award embodies the Office of Technology Transfer's mission to help translate outcomes from basic research into real-world applications. We recognize the most exciting scientific research each year that has the greatest potential to be successfully developed into new products.
"Scott's innovative work is an excellent example of true translational research as it offers a means for the accurate and potentially very rapid diagnosis of serious bacterial infections." says Philip Robilotto, DO, assistant vice president of the ORD's Office of Technology Transfer.
Scott thinks that "spinning out" a company from her study "is going to take some time, but first I'm looking forward to one day starting my own lab."