APR 06, 2017 11:56 AM PDT

New Probe Aims to Curb Undue Antibiotic Use

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Diagnosing an infection as bacterial or viral can be difficult, even for trained specialists. And while it may seem sensible to err on the side of caution and take antibiotics, overuse of antibiotics is now one of the main factors in the rise of superbugs - antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens.

But what if we had better tools to distinguish between infections caused by viruses versus those caused by bacteria? UK scientists say they’ve developed just the thing. Named Proteus, the fiber-optic lung probe can save patients from taking antibiotics if they don’t have a bacterial infection.

According to the American College of Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed for respiratory infections may be unnecessary. And more is not better when it comes to undue antibiotic exposure, as these drugs can select for bugs that are more resistant in the future.

To reduce the chances of a wrong diagnosis and undue antibiotic exposure, the team from universities in Edinburg, Heriot-Watt and Bath, developed the Proteus lung probe.

In essence, the probe has chemicals that fluoresce when bacteria is present. The fluorescence signals are picked up via minuscule fiber optic tubes that can be easily guided into the patient’s lungs. Doctors could use this system and validate a bacterial infection diagnosis before prescribing antibiotics.

Given the imprecise nature of X-rays, and the laborious nature of traditional blood tests, the team hopes the Proteus could "revolutionize the way critically-ill patients and others with long-term lung conditions are assessed and treated.”

"We need to understand disease in patients better so that we can make better decisions at the bedside,” said Dr. Kev Dhaliwal, the project lead at the University of Edinburg.

"The rise of antimicrobial resistance is the biggest challenge in modern medicine and the support from CARB-X will accelerate development of Proteus technology to be ready for clinical use faster and more widely than previously possible,” he added.

Meanwhile, the obvious question remains: Why don’t we make new antibiotics? The answer isn’t so simple since it’s been decades since the last new antibiotics were discovered. Finding new drugs for superbugs can take years for testing and approval, and this pipeline just hasn’t been in the forefront for most pharmaceutical companies recently.

Of note, it’s never anyone’s intent to minimize the life-saving powers of antibiotics. Rather, we should be more judicious about the circumstances that warrant antibiotic use. The bottom line seems counterintuitive: to stop the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we should be more discriminate about the use of antibiotics. But, if successfully applied to the clinics, the diagnostic strategy could save billions of dollars in the long run.

Additional sources: BBC

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
APR 19, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Better Disease Risk Predictions May Come From Ancestry Data, Not Race
APR 19, 2021
Better Disease Risk Predictions May Come From Ancestry Data, Not Race
Researchers have suggested that it's time for medicine to move away from demographic labels that are too narrow to captu ...
JUN 01, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Sequencing and Identifying SARS-CoV-2 Variants Efficiently
JUN 01, 2021
Sequencing and Identifying SARS-CoV-2 Variants Efficiently
  Viral surveillance can give researchers vital information about virus origins, transmission routes, affected popu ...
MAY 26, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Turning bullfrog skin into human bones - as easy as....?
MAY 26, 2021
Turning bullfrog skin into human bones - as easy as....?
In an effort to support the growth of the circular economy, researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore ...
AUG 08, 2021
Cardiology
Strong Links Between PTSD and Heart Disease
AUG 08, 2021
Strong Links Between PTSD and Heart Disease
The link between heart disease and stress is well known, but researchers still have a lot to learn about that associatio ...
AUG 10, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Epidemiology and postexposure prophylaxis of rabies virus
AUG 10, 2021
Epidemiology and postexposure prophylaxis of rabies virus
Rabies is a viral disease that can be transmitted from an infected animal to another animal or human. In the U ...
AUG 29, 2021
Cancer
Blood Test over 90% Accurate in Detecting Lung Cancer
AUG 29, 2021
Blood Test over 90% Accurate in Detecting Lung Cancer
An AI-powered blood test was able to correctly detect the presence of lung cancer over 90% of the time in patient sample ...
Loading Comments...