Mankind may soon have the weapon it needs to win the battle against superbugs. Scientists from the University of Birmingham have created a handheld device that can detect the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (superbugs) by screening blood, saliva, and urine in less than two minutes.
This is a very powerful device to have in your arsenal because it can save lives. Experts believe that this can be used by general practitioners and hospital doctors to significantly reduce the rate of antibiotics that are incorrectly prescribed for viruses like coughs and colds. With every inappropriate prescription, there is a chance that bacteria become more resistant to the drugs. This evolution can make it difficult for doctors to treat diseases.
There’s a concern for antibiotic overuse as doctors are prescribing too many drugs when they’re not necessarily needed and can even become dangerous, including antibiotics that should only be considered as a last resort. Experts fear that a superbug epidemic may kill more people than cancer. In fact, a new report commissioned in 2014 found that superbugs could kill 10 million each year by 2050.
The abuse and overuse of antibiotics are to blame. It helped bacteria build up resistance to drugs that it’s made fighting off even common illness look like an uphill climb. In the United States alone, superbugs have already caused two million sickness and 23,000 deaths as of 2014.
If you think that’s scary, think about this: As of last month, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the scariest superbug on their list has emerged as a new menace, causing 77 cases in seven states across the country. Candida auris, a potent form of yeast, is resistant to most drugs and has a 60 percent death rate.
The CDC also discovered that out of the 35 clinical isolates they analyzed, 86 percent were resistant to fluconazole, 43 percent were resistant to amphotecerin B, and three percent were resistant to echinocandin, which is the standard treatment for bacterial infections like this one. The fungus was recovered from beds, mattresses, chairs, windowsills, countertops, and infusion pumps. It’s dangerous because it’s difficult to recognize and is often incorrectly identified as other yeast forms. Many people may not realize that they are already suffering from a serious infection.
This superbug detector can be extremely beneficial because doctors would immediately know what to prescribe their patients. In most cases, results of tests performed when someone’s sick take about two days and doctors usually prescribe some antibiotic just in case it’s needed. The problem here is patients could be making their bacteria more resistant to the drugs they’re taking.
It’s extremely important to perform tests prior to prescribing antibiotics especially since approximately 5,000 people die in the U.K. each year due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Current infections tests do not yield results immediately. It normally takes a couple of days to get a result back even from something as simple as urinary tract infection. One spin-out company, however, is developing a new one that can quickly identify a bacterial infection. Linear Diagnostics has reported that their new device is already being tested. They hope to make it widely available by next year. “Our device makes it possible to make sure the diagnosis is correct at an early stage by looking for bacteria and check that the antibiotic being prescribed is not the one the bacteria is resistant to,” said Dr. Matt Hicks, Chief Technology Officer of Linear Diagnostics.
A device like this is definitely a game changer in terms of properly identifying medication for sickness.