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Cambridge University Science Magazine
In the traditional diagnostic method, bacteria are cultured in the lab and tested for susceptibility to different antibiotics; a process which takes two days. This often leads to the initial prescription of a wide range of antibiotics in an attempt to target the most likely bacteria. Not only does this contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance, but also means that the increasing number of broad-range resistance cases can go undertreated. While most UTIs are mild, some cases may become severe, causing an increasing number of hospitalisations. Antibiotics play a vital role in treating these infections, especially in the potentially fatal case of urosepsis, where the infection has spread to the bloodstream.

Dr Justin O’Grady, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We found that this device, which is the size of a USB stick, could detect the bacteria in heavily infected urine – and provide it’s DNA sequence in just 12 hours. “This technology is rapid and capable not only of identifying the bacteria in UTIs, but also detecting drug-resistance at the point of clinical need.... There are still challenges to be overcome. The approach is currently best suited to difficult cases, whereas improving hospitals’ antibiotic stewardship requires new diagnostics to be deployed widely.”

While the technique currently only works with heavily-infected urine, and cannot predict resistance from new mutations, rapid technological developments make it likely that these limitations will be overcome. The work has been presented at a conference run by the American Society for Microbiology’s Interscience Conference of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) and the International Society of Chemotherapy.

Written by Raghd Rostom.