Detecting resistance

01 Feb 2021

Researchers at the University of Basel, Switzerland, have developed a method to rapidly detect bacterial resistance to antibiotics from patient samples. 

The system is said to be highly sensitive and capable of detecting one to ten bacteria, or femtograms, of RNA. Researchers say that this kind of sensitivity is important for looking at sepsis, where there are often very few bacteria per millilitre of blood. The new system might also be suitable for meningitis. The researchers say that results from their detection system can be available in a matter of minutes.

The World Health Organisation says that at least 700 000 people die each year from bacteria resistant to antibiotics. This could rise to 10 million deaths each year by 2050. There is ongoing concern about the over prescription of antibiotics. An ideal detection system would be quick cheap and easy to use in a doctor’s surgery.

There are, however, concerns that the system being developed in Basel might be too sensitive. Tina Joshi a molecular biologist at the University of Plymouth, UK said ‘By detecting bacteria at such low concentrations you are over-diagnosing patients who might have organisms that aren’t going to do the patient much harm and then you are going to give antibiotics that are not needed.’

The Basel team estimate that their device could be ready for use in clinical settings in two to three years, but say they need to work on the size the of device so it can be easily handled in a hospital.

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