Vital research by Bearsden scientist could save lives

Kirsten Gracie
Kirsten Gracie

A Bearsden scientist has been involved in groundbreaking research to invent a new test to detect meningitis more quickly and accurately.

Kirsten Gracie (25), who has a degree in forensic chemistry and is now studying for a PhD in bio-analytical chemistry at Strathclyde University, used a technique called Surface Enhanced Ramen Scattering (SERS) to detect and analyse different forms of bacteria using lasers in the study, which is being led by Dr Karen Faulds.

The SERS technique will help doctors and chemists to find different types of bacterial diseases, including bacterial meningitis, with greater accuracy, even when using a smaller test sample.

And it could mean that the current method of retrieving test samples through lumbar punctures, which can be a painful process, will no longer be the only way to do this.

Kirsten, a former pupil of independent school St Aloysius College in Glasgow, is excited about being involved in this pioneering research.

She said: “I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that my work has paved the way for a faster and less painful method of diagnosis and treatment of this horrible and life threatening disease.”

Kirsten added: “It’s going to be very useful for diagnosing young children as it’s much less invasive and only one sample needs to be taken which can detect several bacterium.

“The results also come back in a shorter time frame than traditional methods which can take as long as 36 hours because a culture needs to be grown.

“A faster diagnosis and accurate test results will really help doctors to treat people effectively.

“Our method will show if one bacteria is more prominent and the patient can be treated accordingly.

“Also antibiotics don’t interfere with the results the way they do in current methods.”