It is now possible to test if an infection is resistant to common antibiotics or not. This is as a result of a new study carried out by scientists from the University of York. In this latest research the scientists were able to change the nature of an antibiotic from the beta-lactam family – making it possible for it to be attached to a sensor, thereby facilitating their ability to identify the presence of bacteria that would resist treatment.
Beta-lactam antibiotics like penicillin constitute one of the most vital categories of antibiotics; then again resistance to them has arisen so much so that over and over again doctors avoid recommending them and would rather prescribe stronger drugs instead. According to experts, the novel approach will possibly bring about clinicians being able to identify quickly if it is possible to treat an infection with common antibiotics thereby keeping tougher alternatives for the patients that require them the most.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is seen worldwide as a foremost menace – made worse when antibiotics are applied inappropriately. Callum Silver is co-author of the study and a PhD student from the Department of Electronic Engineering; he said: “If we continue to use antibiotics in the way we currently do, we may find ourselves in a situation where we can no longer use antibiotics to treat patients — resulting in millions of deaths per year. “This study paves the way for the development of tests which will give doctors important information on the bacteria they are dealing with so that common antibiotics can be used
whenever possible. Resistance to new antibiotics can emerge very quickly after they come into use and so we need to reserve them for when they
are really needed. “The discovery may also help to identify and isolate resistant bacteria, reducing the chances of large outbreaks.”
The production of enzymes capable of breaking down beta-lactam antibiotics and making them impotent is one of the most important ways through which bacteria be come resistant to treatment. In the course of the research scientists were able to check for the presence of these resistance enzymes through the attachment of the changed antibiotic to a sensor surface which made it possible for them to detect if the drug was broken down or not.
The team made use of different types of procedures to reveal that the drug is nevertheless accessible to the enzyme; this implies that the modified antibiotic will possibly be applied towards the development of things such as urine tests for AMR bacteria in patients. Callum Silver added: “The lack of diagnostic techniques to inform doctors whether or not they are dealing with resistant bacteria contributes to the problem of AMR.” “This modified antibiotic could be applied to a variety of different biosensing devices for use at the pointof-care.”
Dr. Steven Johnson, Reader in the University’s Department of Electronic Engineering, said: “This important study is the result of a close collaboration between physical, chemical and biological scientists at the University of York and lays the foundation for a new diagnostic test for drug resistant infections. “We are now working with clinicians at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to integrate this modified antibiotic into a rapid diagnostic test for antimicrobial resistance in urinary tract infections.”
By Kunle O. Sanyaolu