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Antimicrobial Resistance

Can this new tech slow the progress of antibiotic resistance?

Natalie Whitfield PhD, D(ABMM)

Director, Scientific and Medical Affairs

The World Health Organization describes antibiotic resistance as ‘one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today’. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change and become resistant to antibiotic medication. The health problems that bacteria and fungi can cause become harder to treat as a result, thereby highlighting the need for antimicrobial stewardship programmes.

Appropriate antibiotic usage needs stewardship to prevent global problems

The number of deaths linked to antibiotic resistance are set to rise to epidemic proportions without immediate, significant action. Therefore, the antimicrobial stewardship programmes (ASP) – plans of action are now vital in all healthcare settings. The plans involve preventing infections and instigating antibiotic medication controls.

Dr Whitfield explains, “Approximately 20% of UK antibiotic prescriptions are currently thought to be unnecessary1. The accuracy and speed of diagnosis when a patient is admitted to hospital needs improving. Doing so can play a huge part in controlling the use of antibiotic medication.”

Earlier, more accurate detection will help identify which antibiotics are needed

Innovative, rapid molecular diagnostic systems like GenMark’s ePlex Blood Culture Identification panels could prove to be a game changer. They can provide comprehensive detection of infectious diseases from patients’ samples. This often happens within a couple of hours – rather than the usual 24 to 36 hours.

Approximately 20% of UK antibiotic prescriptions currently thought to be unnecessary.

“We can understand specific strains of pathogens using these new, high-tech molecular diagnostic systems. For example, by detecting which drug resistance genes they possess—and so which therapies should be avoided,” says Dr Whitfield.

GenMark has developed an additional software module for their ePlex system, valuable for speeding up diagnosis and treatment. The software is called Templated Comments. This capability empowers microbiologists, pharmacists and other specialists to translate their expertise and treatment suggestions. They can do so directly onto the ePlex result report and link to specific test results, helping the hands-on clinician deliver the right clinical interventions, faster. “Templated Comments doesn’t just speed up time to effective therapy,” says Dr Whitfield. “It also helps ensure antibiotics are more accurately used, if indeed, they are needed at all.”

Results can highlight trends for individual hospitals

Finally, the information from these rapid diagnostic results can be used to improve antibiograms for individual hospitals. Changes in resistance patterns can be tracked over time with antibiograms. In turn, this informs the development of therapeutic guidelines, action plans and antibiotic stewardship programmes at the national, regional and local level.

“Although these new tests may appear to be significantly more expensive to run. Ultimately, hospitals and healthcare authorities save money by helping to shorten hospital stays, reducing expensive antibiotic prescriptions, helping to control antibiotic medication resistance, and, studies2 show, saving more lives,” says Whitfield.

1 Davies, SC. (2018) Reducing inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics in English primary care: evidence and outlook. J Antimicrob Chemother. 73(4): 833–834.
2 Timbrook, et al. (2017) The Effect of Molecular Rapid Diagnostic Testing on Clinical Outcomes in Bloodstream Infections: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Clin Infect Dis. 64(1):15-23

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