Rapid test for antibiotic resistance could help control spread in hospitals

A new test, jointly developed between Imperial College and Bruker Daltonics, could help rapidly determine whether a bacterial infection is resistant to antibiotics of last resort.

The test kit can be used to test hospital patients on-site for bacterial infections that are resistant to colistin and other members of the antibiotic family known as polymyxins.

Polymyxins are used as a last resort antibiotic because they are often effective even against superbugs that are otherwise antibiotic-resistant.

The development could prove to be hugely significant given that the spread of bacterial resistance even to these last-line antibiotics is therefore a serious threat to human health.

Importantly, the test kit also helps indicate how transmissible a case of antibiotic resistance is.

Dr Gerald Larrouy-Maumus at the Department of Life Sciences and the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection, the lead inventor of the technology, said: “By working with Bruker, which is a world leader in mass spectrometry for diagnostics, we have been able to go from the lab bench to the public, to address an important clinical need.”

“Antibiotic resistance, along with climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, is a huge problem,” he added.

“If we do nothing by 2050, 10 million deaths a year will be attributed to antibiotic resistance, and we will see a huge economic loss of around 100 trillion dollars. So of course, we need to think about how we can address this global challenge. The test we have created is an important tool.”

Professor Anne Dell, head of Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences, added: “I’m very proud of the work that Gerald and colleagues have done with our partners at Bruker Daltonics to translate hard-won academic insights first into an invention, and now a commercially available technology, that promises to play an important role in addressing antibiotic resistance and ultimately in saving lives.”

Last month, researchers warned the world has “a huge task” to stem the overuse of antibiotics which are rising fears of the rise in resistant bacteria.

The study, by the Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) Project, found global antibiotic consumption rates increased by 46 percent in the last two decades. It is the first study to provide longitudinal estimates for human antibiotic consumption covering 204 countries from 2000 to 2018.

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