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New patient test could tell GPs if infections are antibiotic resistant in under two hours

A member of the Vitamica team working on the rapid antimicrobial susceptibility test’ Vitamica

Press release issued: 28 August 2019

A new rapid patient test which could identify whether bacteria isolated from clinical samples are antibiotic resistant in under two hours is being trialled on a range of antibiotics commonly used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs). If successful, the test could transform decision-making around antibiotic choice by helping inform the five million antibiotic prescriptions written each year in the UK for UTIs.

The threat of antibiotic resistant strains of infection is an escalating global health concern and improved targeting of antibiotics is crucial in reducing the spread of resistance. Current susceptibility testing methods typically take two to three days to arrive back with a GP from hospital laboratories because they rely on detecting bacterial growth.

Now, a new test developed by University of Bristol spin-out company Vitamica,  aims to deliver results from lab to GP in under two hours.

The rapid antimicrobial susceptibility test (AST), uses novel optical technology to see inside bacteria cells and detect tiny movements indicating whether the cells are alive or not and could be antibiotic resistant. Based on technology developed at Bristol’s School of Physics, the test is being trialled using bacteria derived from human UTI samples on a range of antibiotics commonly used to treat them.

Dr Paul Meakin, Vitamica’s CEO, said: “Bacteria treated with an effective antibiotic will show alterations in these movements after only a few minutes, meaning that we very quickly tell whether an antibiotic is suitable for prescribing to an individual patient.

“The exciting news is that we have produced promising results for a range of antibiotics commonly used to treat urinary infections.  We now need to extend this testing to bacteria in other samples such as blood where sepsis is a real threat to life.”

Vitamica has now announced a bid to raise further funding to continue development of this pioneering antimicrobial susceptibility test and is seeking to raise a further £1.5 million to extend the programme of research over the next two years. 

Andy Allars, non-executive chairman of Vitamica, added: “Vitamica’s progress since last year has been very promising. Completing our next investment round by the end of 2019 will ensure we maintain momentum and can move confidently towards our next strategic milestones.”


Further information

  1. Vitamica was established in January 2018 with the aim of exploiting technology developed at the University of Bristol’s School of Physics under Dr Massimo Antognozzi.  The optical technique, referred to as ‘Sub-Cellular Fluctuation Imaging’ (SCFI) allows the movements taking place inside living bacterial cells to be visualised.  Dead cells do not show these movements, leading to the idea for an antimicrobial susceptibility test.
  2. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) is normally carried out in hospital laboratories and results take 2-3 days to arrive back with a GP.  This is too slow to guide choice of initial antibiotic for conditions such as urinary tract infections (UTI), and antibiotics are prescribed on the basis of experience, not on the basis of evidence of effectiveness.  Vitamica’s instrument will provide the evidence needed to inform the 5 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year in the UK for UTI.
  3. Failure of antibiotics to treat urinary infections can have fatal consequences and costs the NHS almost £1 billion a year.
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