HAMPSHIRE experts are to trial a groundbreaking microchip which could detect eye infections in minutes.

Clinicians and engineers in Southampton are to use the device, which could also prevent misuse of antibiotics, on patients at Southampton General Hospital’s eye unit next month for the first time.

Conventional testing methods to detect eye infections, include microscopes or antibiotic sensitivity testing and can take between 48 hours and two weeks to provide results.

But thanks to the microchip which has been developed by experts at the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS), it could only take few minutes.

Parwez Hossain, a consultant ophthalmologist at UHS and part of the study team, said: “These findings, although currently laboratory-based, could have deep implications for the detection and treatment of corneal infections as it has the potential to reduce diagnosis time from up to two weeks to only a few minutes – and the ability to deliver the correct antibiotics immediately.”

The cornea is the eye’s outermost layer and becomes infected when is damaged by a foreign object.

Mr Hossain said that the cornea is only half a millimetre thick and infections can spread rapidly and destroy it. He added: “ So timely treatment is extremely important.”

The groundbreaking microchip, which has recently been awarded a prestigious prize for research innovation at the 101st Oxford Ophthalmological Congress, will allow doctors to distinguish the different bacteria in the cornea and detect infections as well as identify the treatment needed.

In a further development, the team also hope to trial the test in Africa and South Asia.

Professor Myron Christodoulides, professor of bacteriology at the University of Southampton and a member of the study team, said: “Outside of the UK, rapid detection and targeted antibiotic treatments for eye infections are very urgent needs for many people living in some of the poorest countries in the world.“We have plans for working closely with our new partners at the Lighthouse Eye Hospital in Kenya and the Christian Medical College in India to use this exciting project to help meet their needs.”

The device was developed with funding support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.