US firm Trana Discovery has begun proof-of-concept studies on a rapid diagnostic platform that it says could detect the presence of a variety of infectious micro-organisms in less than an hour.

The platform uses transfer RNA (tRNA) to detect the presence of infection-causing bacteria and fungi as well as identify their species, if found, in patient samples.

Trana Discovery CEO Steven Peterson said that he believed this new diagnostic tool can reduce the prescribing of unnecessary antibiotics or multiple drug regimens.

“We envision that patient outcomes can be improved by initiating the right treatment at a period of time critical for effective intervention,” Peterson said.

The studies will involve populating an array with organism-specific RNA identifiers modified with a fluorescent label that binds to microbial ribosomes present in a patient’s sample.

The company’s proprietary diagnostic technology will focus on the ability of modified nucleotide bases within tRNAs to synthesise mimics of the anticodon stem loops just as they occur in nature.

The platform could enable fast and accurate diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, unlike conventional rapid diagnostic tests which require incubation periods over several days to detect many organisms.

The initial results of the studies are expected later in 2010.