A rapid antibiogram test capable of indicating the effective antibiotic on a specific patient

Article by Eleonora Nicolai, Professor of Biochemistry in the Degree Course in Biomedical Laboratory Techniques at UniCamillus

The problem of antibiotic resistance is of primary importance in the scientific field.
The Corriere della Sera of January 18, 2020 publishes an article entitled “700 thousand deaths a year from antibiotic resistance” which reports the estimate of the World Health Organization (WHO) of 700 thousand deaths a year in the world. In Europe, specifically, there are 33 thousand deaths a year. They are immense numbers in terms of human lives.

The difficulty of antibiotic resistance also has implications for more serious diseases than simple bacterial infections. Thinking about cancer, there are cases that cannot be treated without using antibiotics, such as leukemia. Cancer therapies often weaken patients’ immune system and it is very easy to get infections during surgery, chemo and other therapies. Even after the treatments, the immune system continue to be very weak. For this reason, according to the Norwegian Cancer Society, patients need antibiotics that work and it is important to act immediately in the fight against antibiotic resistance otherwise more patients will cease to live not so much for cancer as for infections got during treatment.

The loss of efficacy of antibiotics is mainly linked to their excessive use. Healthcare professionals frequently find themselves prescribing antibacterials, even if with the doubt that they are not necessary to avoid possible complications. This is because there is no rapid test to guide the clinician in choosing whether or not to administer an antibiotic or which antibiotic to administer.

Currently the results for an antibiogram take 24 to 48 hours. The method developed and reported in my study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, has been applied to urinary tract infections. Starting from 30 μl of the patient’s urine, in less than 3 hours, indications are obtained on the antibiotics to be administered, capable of counteracting the ongoing bacterial infection.

In an article in L’Espresso of March 20, 2020, an interview regarding the current pandemic due to Coronavirus to Dr. Rino Rappuoli, internationally renowned Microbiologist at the moment Scientific Director and Head of External Research and Development at Glaxo SmithKline Vaccines, who declares “the antibiotic resistance is likely to become the next world emergency”. Professor Rappuoli underlines the problem of the exaggerated quantity of antibiotics consumed worldwide which risks generating super bacteria capable of resisting all available drugs.

“If health policies do not change – the scientist points out – the antibiotic resistance will cause a more serious catastrophe than Coronavirus”.