The method could eliminate the delays associated with conventional diagnosis, in which a patient sample has to be cultured for several days to identify the bacteria present and test for its sensitivity against different antibiotics, before the appropriate remedy is prescribed.
The development, by a team at the Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, is a significant advance in appropriate use of antibiotics. It is a step towards limiting the choice of inappropriate antibiotics for unidentified infections that may or may not be bacterial in origin.
Researchers behind the development suggest that it could be applied across animal and human medicine.
Researchers developed their approach based on common bacterial infections in dogs. They developed a protocol for patient sampling, using kits optimised for use in samples containing common bacterial species, to extract all DNA from a sample, without prior knowledge of which species are present - so-called metagenomic DNA extraction.
They combined this with an existing technology that generates DNA code from samples, known as nanopore sequencing, together with a data analysis tool that can identify bacteria according to their DNA fingerprint.
This approach allows identification of bacteria in real time, enabling results in a few hours. The genes identified in the sample also give valuable insight on how the bacteria present are likely to respond to antibiotic treatment, enabling clinicians to prescribe the drug best suited to the infection.
The team tested their system with skin and urinary tract bacterial infections in dogs, and were able to detect bacteria within 5 hours, including identifying bacterial species that are difficult to identify with conventional culturing.
They were able to determine with high sensitivity whether the bacteria present was likely to be resistant to antibiotics.
Researchers designed their system to be adaptable for use in various samples and infections across animal species, and expect that it will be useful across a range of animal and human infections, potentially in treatment of other types of infections such as viruses and parasites.
Their study, published in Microbial Genomics, was supported by the Dogs Trust.
"Our method offers a swift way to diagnose bacterial infections and prescribe appropriate antibiotics within hours of patient testing.
Following our work with skin and urinary infections in dogs, we are confident that this approach has potential for use across many animal species, and in humans, and has applications in other infection types. It could play a significant role in enabling responsible use of antimicrobial treatments and limiting antimicrobial resistance."
Dr Natalie Ring, Roslin Institute
Dogs Trust's Canine Welfare Grant programme provides funding for research projects with clear pathways to positive welfare outcomes. We were delighted to provide funding for this study by the Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies which has developed a new technology for the rapid diagnosis of bacterial infections.
"The technology will significantly reduce the time taken to receive testing results, from several days to a matter of hours. This will allow for much quicker treatment of the canine patient and consequently a potential reduction in recovery time."
Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director, Dogs Trust
The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
- The University of Edinburgh
- Easter Bush Campus
- Midlothian EH25 9RG
Deputy Head of School - Operations: Tim King
T: +44 (0)131 651 7300
- The University of Edinburgh
- Easter Bush
- Midlothian, EH25 9RG
Enquiries: Roslin Institute
T: +44 (0)131 651 9100