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In a first, scientists have developed a new test that can quickly determine whether infection- causing bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.
The test, developed by researchers at the Uppsala University in Sweden, can help doctors make an informed choice while prescribing antibiotics.
It is primarily intended for urinary tract infections - a condition that affects about 100 million women a year globally and accounts for 25 per cent of antibiotic use in Sweden.
Monitoring whether individual bacteria grow in the presence of antibiotics (ie are resistant) reveals their resistance or susceptibility within a few minutes, researchers said.
"We have developed a new method that allows determination of bacterial resistance patterns in urinary tract infections in 10 to 30 minutes," said Ozden Baltekin, from Uppsala University.
"By comparison, the resistance determination currently in use requires one to two days. The rapid test is based on a new plastic microfluidic chip where the bacteria are trapped and methods for analysing bacterial growth at single-cell level," Baltekin added.
It is great that the research methods we developed to address fundamental questions in molecular biology are useful for such a tremendously important medical application, researchers said.
"We believe the method is usable for other types of infection, such as blood infections where prompt, correct choice of antibiotic is critical to the patient," said Dan Andersson from Uppsala University.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing medical problem that threatens human health globally. One important contributory factor in the development of resistance is the incorrect use of antibiotics for treatment.
Researchers therefore seek reliable methods to quickly and easily identify bacterial resistance patterns, known as antibiotic susceptibility testing (AST), and provide early treatment, ie right from the doctor's appointment.
This has been inhibited by the current time-consuming antibiotic resistance tests.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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