Towards a quantitative colorimeter for point-of-care urinalysis
This paper reports on a low-cost, quantitative, point-of-care solution for the early detection of nitrite, a common biomarker for urinary tract infections (UTIs). In a healthy individual, nitrite is not found in the urine. However, a subject with a suspected UTI will produce nitrite in their urine since the bacteria present will convert nitrate into nitrite. Traditionally, nitrite is monitored by urinary dipsticks that are either read by eye or using a reflectance spectrophotometer. Both methods provide a semiquantitative positive or negative result at best. In this paper, we described a novel, affordable, portable transmission-based colorimeter for the quantitative measurement of nitrite. A unique permutation of the Griess reaction was optimized for the clinical detection of nitrite in urine and is reported. By using nitrite spiked in a salt buffer, artificial, and human urine samples, the performance of the colorimeter was evaluated against dipsticks read using two commercial dipstick analyzers, Urisys 1100 (Roche Diagnostics) and Clinitek Status+ (Siemens Medical Solutions). The colorimeter was able to detect the clinically relevant range of nitrite from 0.78 to 200 μM in a salt buffer. The detection limit in artificial urine was determined as 1.6 μM, which is ∼16× more sensitive than commercial dipstick reflectance analyzers, enabling the possibility for earlier detection of urinary infections. The colorimeter is assembled using off-the-shelf components (<$80) and controlled by a smartphone application via low-energy bluetooth. It has a built-in color correction algorithm and is designed to enable for a turbidity correction in samples containing bacteria or other cellular debris as well. The mobile application can display the nitrite concentration for a single sample or display the results over a period of time. Tracking urinalysis results longitudinally can help identify trends such as increases in nitrite concentrations over an individual’s baseline and identify possible infections earlier. While the detection of nitrite was showcased here, this portable analyzer can be expanded to other colorimetric-based chemistries to detect a panel of biomarkers, which can improve the overall sensitivity and specificity of the desired assay.