London: A simple, new test may accurately diagnose some of the most dangerous drug-resistant bacterial infections such as bronchitis and gastroenteritis in under 15 minutes, scientists say.
Bacteria have been gradually evolving to become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them. Over the last few years, scientists have found evidence that some bacteria have become resistant to a last resort antibiotic called colistin.
Researchers, including those from Imperial College London in the UK, tested 134 different colonies of bacteria using a machine called a mass spectrometer that is used to analyse various different molecules.
They studied bacteria called Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumonia.
These are both members of a group of bacteria called Enterobacteriacae that can cause gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, lung diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and even sepsis.
Some strains of these bacteria have become resistant to nearly all available antibiotics mostly by producing antibiotic inactivating enzymes, researchers said.
This means that colistin often remains the only treatment option for these multidrug resistant bacteria. Unfortunately, some have now also developed resistance to colistin.
Researchers found that it was possible to distinguish not only between those bacteria that are colistin resistant, and those that are not, but also which bacteria have the more dangerous plasmid-encoded resistance.
"The exciting thing about this technique is that it relies on technology that is already available in most hospitals," said Gerald Larrouy-Maumus of Imperial College London.
"This means that it could be rolled out quickly and cheaply, and potentially have a rapid impact on tackling drug-resistance," Maumus said.
The test can be carried out in around 15 minutes and would cost less than one USD one per sample, researchers said.