Rapid AMR Detection Team: University of Bristol, UK

See this team's Longitude Prize entry page

This team successfully won a Discovery Award seed-funding grant to help further develop their ideas for their Longitude Prize application and create a diagnostic test  that helps solve the problem of global antibiotic resistance. Below we have asked them to explain their test and motivation for applying.

Please explain your test.

If you go to the doctors with an infection, the doctor will probably give you an antibiotic, which kills bacteria. Unfortunately, bacteria can change so that they are no longer killed by the antibiotic. Our invention is a way that doctors can quickly test antibiotics to see which ones will work on the bacteria and which ones won’t. We can test if the bacteria are dying and see which antibiotics work and which ones do not. The doctor can then prescribe an antibiotic that they know is going to kill the bacteria, so you get better sooner.

Please share a more detailed description of this work from a medical professional's perspective.

We are developing an optical technique to rapidly detect whether bacteria are alive or not. This will allow us to test different antibiotics to determine which drugs the bacteria are susceptible and resistant to. The test will enable healthcare professionals to prescribe effective antibiotics, leading to optimal treatment and fewer complications as well as reducing the volume of antibiotics prescribed, thus slowing the spread of resistance. Our technique relies on optical detection of the state of bacteria after injecting antibiotics and does not rely on bacteria growth. This means we do not need to wait for the bacteria to grow (or not) to see if they are affected by antibiotics. Our proof of principle experiments have shown that we can detect susceptibility of E. coli to selected antibiotics within 20 minutes, which is significantly faster than the standard 24-48 hours and also faster than new emerging techniques that typically take a few hours.

Why did you apply and what will the Discovery Award funding be used for in your work? 

We have recently conducted proof of concept experiments in our laboratory showing that we can detect the susceptibility of E. coli to different antibiotics. We now need to build prototypes and test a much wider range of samples and antibiotics in clinical settings. The funding will aid the development of a smaller, cheaper prototype based on our laboratory instrument. We will use the prototype to test our technique in veterinary and hospital settings using clinical samples.

What difference will your work make in the long term with regards to antimicrobial diagnostics? 

A rapid susceptibility test will enable healthcare providers to prescribe an effective treatment and reduce the risk of complications. This leads to better patient recovery and reduced cost for treatment of infections and complications. It will also reduce the volume of antibiotics prescribed, which slows the spread of resistance. Two particular areas that will benefit from a rapid susceptibility test such as this are primary care and veterinary medicine. In both of these areas, patients with an infection are seen for a short consultation, so a susceptibility test needs to be rapid so that effective antibiotics can be prescribed in the initial consultation. Relatively simple common infections often seen in these settings can become dangerous if not treated promptly so prescription of an effective antibiotic is important. Both primary care and veterinary medicine are also under pressure to prescribe fewer, more targeted antibiotics in order to slow the spread of resistance, with primary care being responsible for about three quarters of all healthcare antibiotic prescribing in the UK.

If there is a design for a prototype, please describe it and how it will work.

We are planning to miniaturise our technology, which will result in the development of a portable device. This would allow our technique to be used in a point-of-care setting, such as primary care, veterinary care and in the field in Low and Middle Income Country settings as well as in a microbiology laboratory setting.

Who is on your team?
Dr Massimo Antognozzi 
Dr Charlotte Bermingham
Dr Matthew Avison
Dr Ruth Oulton
Dr Krishna Coimbatore Balram
Dr Helen Baxter
Dr Niamh Redmond

If you are interested in collaborating with this team, longitude [dot] prize [at] nesta [dot] org [dot] uk (please email us).