A 92-year-old scientist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has invented a kit that enables the immediate detection of drug-resistant bacteria, one of the major concerns of organizations like the World Health Organization.
According to Yissum, the research and development company of the Hebrew University, in the United States alone, antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for eight million additional hospital stays every year and for the consequent bed-to-bed spread of resistance, leading to over $20 billion per year in excess health care costs and $35 billion per year in societal costs.
Identification within minutes
The kit, developed by the almost centenarian Professor Emeritus Nathan Citri, enables direct and precise recognition of bacterial resistance to all members of the family of beta-lactams, which is the most widely used group of antibiotics, including penicillins, cephalosporins and carbapenems.
Furthermore, the kits not only detect the presence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, but also offer immediate information on the type of antibiotic that may still be of use.
Yissum CEO, Yaacov Michlin, says: “Drug-resistant gut bacteria present the most alarming, imminent threat to our ability to control infectious diseases. In order to contain its spread, a case of multi-drug resistance should be promptly isolated and treated with the one or two last-resort drugs that may still work. However, currently, available techniques for identifying drug resistant bacteria are slow or hardly accessible, and evidence-based decisions are delayed for days.”
Michlin adds that “Professor Citri’s invention now enables hospitals to identify drug resistant infections within minutes, so that the patient can immediately benefit from appropriate, evidence-based treatment while contagion and contamination are minimized. This is an extremely important step in our fight against antibiotic resistance, and one that will not only greatly improve patient care but will also save billions of dollars in health care expenses related to antibiotic resistant bacteria.”
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The kits are modular, disposable arrays of spots impregnated with several types of antibiotics. The exact combination can be easily varied according to need. Unprocessed samples of any specimen to be tested are placed directly on the array spots, which are then covered by a lid containing a dark indicator dye. If the sample contains bacteria that can destroy the antibiotic impregnated in a particular spot, the dark indicator dye facing that spot becomes lighter, exposing the antibiotic resistance within minutes.
The kits will thus alert doctors to the presence of a bacterial infection, warn which antibiotics will be futile and inform which, if any, still constitute a treatment option.
UK Licensing Agreement
Yissum has now signed a licensing agreement withBioConnections, a UK based microbiology company, for the commercialization of the kits.
Ken Denton, CEO of BioConnections, said, “We are very excited with this new partnership, and are convinced that Prof. Citri’s invention will improve patient care, saving lives, shortening hospital stays and significantly reducing health care costs. The first kits are in the last stages of development, and we hope it will reach the market within months. In parallel, we have applied for a CE mark for marketing of the kits in Europe.”