Built for Speed

Urinary tract infections account for a large portion of antibiotic prescriptions – but could a new point-of-care test help doctors prescribe more selectively?

Roisin McGuigan and Michael Schubert interview Johan Elf

December 2017

At a Glance

  • Despite the ever-growing threat of antibiotic resistance, incorrect prescribing is still a huge problem – better diagnostic approaches are needed
  • A team from Sweden have produced a rapid POC test that can determine susceptibility of bacteria to antibiotics in urinary tract infections 
  • If the test is easy to use, automatic and the size of a shoebox, it has the potential to bring susceptibility testing closer to patients
  • The start-up company that has now taken over development hopes the test will hit the clinic within the next few years

The threat of antibiotic resistance needs no introduction, and yet antibiotics are still being incorrectly prescribed around the globe. New and improved approaches to diagnosing bacterial infection are needed, and many research groups are working on the problem. But once diagnosed, which antibiotic to prescribe? Current tests used to determine antibiotic susceptibility can take several days, which could prevent the right antibiotic from being prescribed right away.

Now, a team from the University of Uppsala, Sweden, has developed a rapid point-of-care (POC) test to determine the susceptibility of bacteria to antibiotics in urinary tract infections (UTIs), with a turnaround time of just 30 minutes. We spoke to Johan Elf, Professor of Physical Biology and Chair of Molecular Systems Biology at Uppsala University to find out more…

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