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In a world of rapidly developing medicine, people often turn to pharmaceuticals for a quick fix. In the case of antibiotics, doctors often prescribe antibiotics when unnecessary. A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that out of all the patients in the United States who visited a hospital and reported a sore throat, only 10% of those patients actually had strep throat. However, 60% of those who reported a sore throat received the antibiotic for strep throat, even when they didn’t have strep throat. This is particularly worrisome because of the threat it poses: antibiotic resistance. When antibiotics are used incorrectly, drug-resistant strains of bacteria can develop. According to the CDC, each year approximately two million people in the United States contract an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, and 23,000 people die as a direct result of it.

 Misuse of antibiotics creates superbugs

Image Source: Science Photo Library – SCIEPRO

The creation of these “superbugs“, or strains of bacteria that are resistant to several different antibiotics, results in doctors having to conduct tests to discover which antibiotics the bacteria are not resistant to in order to create a personalized antibiotic combination treatment for the patient. Current antibiotic resistance tests take several days for labs to process results.

Luckily, scientists at St George’s, University of London’s Applied Diagnostic Research and Evaluation Unit, and Atlas Genetics are developing a new technology that will allow antibiotic resistance tests to be conducted in 30 minutes. A £1.5 million ($2,341,125 USD) grant from the National Institute of Health Research is helping to fund the creation of a device small enough to sit atop a desk that can diagnose bacterial infections, as well as antibiotic resistance, in 30 minutes. The current technology development is focusing on sexually transmitted infections, and it would be able to diagnose antibiotic resistance through urine samples and vaginal swabs. Although this does not provide a solution to the issue of antibiotic resistance, it does allow doctors to prescribe working antibiotics to patients sooner, which could save lives.

Feature Image Source: antibiotics! by samantha celera

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