The Sunday Telegraph

Super-fast test to select right antibiotic is likely lifesaver

- By Matthew Watts

BRITISH researcher­s have pioneered a test that can cut the time it takes to identify the right antibiotic treatment from three days to four hours, potentiall­y saving thousands of lives.

The technology ensures that patients with bacterial infections receive the correct antibiotic on day one of treatment, helping to save some of the 1.3 million lives lost globally every year because of antibiotic resistance.

If not treated quickly and effectivel­y, bacterial infections can lead to complicati­ons such as sepsis – poisoning of the blood – which accounts for around 50,000 deaths in the UK every year.

Regular testing can take 48 to 72 hours. In that time, patients may be prescribed an antibiotic that does not work. The Global Research on Antimicrob­ial Resistance report estimated the resistance led to 1.27 million deaths in 2019.

Experts at the University of Southampto­n have created a device that enables the identifica­tion of antibiotic resistance in four hours. It involves growing a sample of bacteria from a patient in a laboratory in the presence of an antibiotic, before a device called an iFAST measures the electrical signals of bacteria in 30 seconds to identify any damage to the bacteria’s outer cell wall.

The test was developed by Hywel Morgan, professor of bioelectro­nics, and Dr Daniel Spencer, a specialist in biomedical electronic engineerin­g, both of the University of Southampto­n.

It is part of a £1 million laboratory trial funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research and led by the UK Health Security Agency.

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