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Home » Antimicrobial Resistance » How can rapid, effective diagnostics help in the fight against antimicrobial resistance?

Dr. Jane Freeman

National Clinical Lead, AMR Diagnostics, NHS England

Accurate, rapid infection diagnosis supports healthcare teams to get people the care they need quickly and reduce the impact of AMR. 

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a widespread concern in the UK; we must use current antimicrobials wisely to reduce the risk of AMR infections to patients. Accurate, rapid diagnostic tests support healthcare teams to identify infections and use the right dose and duration of targeted antimicrobials as quickly as possible. Diagnostic tests also help teams recognise when antimicrobials are not needed.  

A highly targeted approach 

Dr Jane Freeman, National Clinical Lead, AMR Diagnostics at NHS England explains: “If clinicians know exactly which bug is causing an infection and which antimicrobials it is susceptible to, they can treat it in a targeted way without destroying the body’s beneficial bugs. Good diagnostics don’t just inform the most effective treatment plans. They can also reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance developing.” 

Improving how we diagnose bloodstream infections 

NHS England is working hard to improve the way we diagnose infections. This includes refining the blood culture pathway which diagnoses infections in the bloodstream. When a blood culture sample is taken, many are involved in getting it to the lab to be analysed as quickly as possible — including ward staff, hospital porters, transport staff and the lab team.  

We have made big improvements in how we recognise sepsis clinically.

Each contribution should not be underestimated, notes Dr Freeman. “One of the things we are doing is creating education packages around the blood culture pathway so that different staff groups understand the importance of their role within it, whether that is taking the recommended volume of blood or getting it to the lab analysers quickly,” she says. “They are part of a bigger picture that is critical to patient care.”  

While using current diagnostic technologies more efficiently, the NHS England team are also introducing new technologies into the pathway, where appropriate, to ensure it is working as well as possible for patients.  

Benefits of accurate diagnostics 

Developing the existing blood culture pathway and early identification of bloodstream infections can reduce deaths from sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to a bloodstream infection which can cause life-threatening organ and tissue damage.  

The UK Sepsis Trust highlights that there are 48,000 deaths related to sepsis yearly. “We have made big improvements in how we recognise sepsis clinically,” says Dr Freeman. “Identifying the microbiological pathogen that causes sepsis — and if bacterial, which antibiotic it is most susceptible to — can improve our ability to treat it. That helps bring the best patient care possible, while also helping prevent AMR.  

Paid for by bioMérieux

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