Smaller means faster: diagnostics on a microchip


We want to use a novel test to make the diagnosis of antibiotic resistance much faster. We are developing a miniaturised process that will directly analyse individual germs on a microchip.

Portrait / project description (ongoing research project)

It currently takes hours or even days to determine whether a germ is resistant to an antibiotic. That’s often too long when doctors need to take decisions about treatments. We are developing a new diagnostic method that will deliver reliable results within a few hours. We want to determine not only the type of resistance displayed by a pathogen but also what concentration of what antibiotic is needed to stop the infection. At the heart of our device is a microchip on which minute quantities of germs can be fixed and analysed. The use of such small sample quantities substantially reduces the time needed for analysis compared with conventional methods. We are testing the reliability of our device in the routine clinical setting.


There is a great need for faster diagnostic tests in both veterinary and human medicine. They would increase cure and survival rates while at the same time helping to fight resistance by enabling a more targeted use of antibiotics in many cases.


Our aim is to develop a diagnostic test that determines resistance more rapidly than existing methods. The device should be easy to use.


Our test device’s compact size and ease of handling make it suitable for use in a wide range of settings without the need for a complex laboratory infrastructure.

Original title

Microfluidic device for ultrarapid phenotypic susceptibility testing of pathogenic microbes

Project leaders

  • Prof. Petra Dittrich, Laboratorium für Organische Chemie ETH Zürich, Zürich
  • Dr. Adrian Egli, Labormedizin, Universitätsspital Basel, Basel
  • Dr. Martin Held, Departement für Biosysteme und Ingenieurwissenschaften, ETH Zürich, Basel



Further information on this content



Prof. Petra Dittrich Laboratorium für Organische Chemie ETH Zürich Gebäude HCI / E 313 Vladimir-Prelog-Weg 1-5/10 8093 Zürich +41 44 632 43 77