The rising resilience of microbes to antibiotics is a serious threat to global health. Antimicrobial resistance leads to 30 000 deaths per year in the EU, and roughly 700 000 globally. Scientists predict that by 2050, infections from drug-resistant microbes will cause more deaths around the world than all cancers combined. In order to stop this worrying trend, societies must stop the overuse of antibiotics. One major step towards this goal is a switch towards precision targeted therapy, where treatments are allocated based on the susceptibility of a particular pathogen. Doctors therefore need accessible, comprehensive tests of the susceptibility of each pathogen to antimicrobial agents. Antibiotic susceptibility testing (AST) determines which drugs will stop bacterial or fungal growth underlying an infection. Manual testing is currently the most precise way to do this, but this is time-consuming and expensive. There are some automated systems that are easy to use and cost-effective, but they deliver only limited information on treatments. The EU-funded BacterOMIC project developed a state-of-the-art automated testing machine that delivers informative and comprehensive antimicrobial susceptibility tests. “The goal of BacterOMIC is to take AST to the next level by offering quantitative evaluations of all clinically relevant antibiotics in a single test,” says Piotr Garstecki, president and CTO at Scope Fluidics, and BacterOMIC project coordinator. The most important achievement in the project was obtaining CE IVD certification for the BacterOMIC system, showing the device meets regulatory requirements in medical settings and paving the way for its entry into the market.
Automated testing at scale
BacterOMIC uses cutting-edge technology in the field of microfluidics – controlling fluids at extremely small scales. The machine uses disposable cartridge panels, which allow 640 independent cultures to be analysed on a single test. Once a bacterial strain has been isolated, it is deposited into the panel. These panels are stacked into an automated filling device, and transferred into an analyser, which carries out the tests. BacterOMIC cartridges are easy to use, as the only manual step is deposition of a bacterial suspension onto the cartridge. All other operations are automated, adding to the ease of use. “We have designed the cartridges to test up to 60 clinically relevant antibiotics or up to 20 checkerboard combinations of antibiotics in a single test,” Garstecki notes. “This approach provides a clear technological advantage over the competition and will improve treatment outcomes and reduce the risk of complications and hospitalisation and treatment costs,” he adds.
Moving closer to market
The team plans to introduce BacterOMIC to the market in the second quarter of 2022. The business development team is currently seeking out and establishing relationships, finding distribution partners and assessing market needs. “The combination of a low entry barrier with the unique ability to obtain complete AST information and identify synergistic combinations of antibiotics should facilitate the rapid adoption of BacterOMIC,” says Garstecki. The system will be tested in clinical and commercial centres in countries across the EU, gaining further feedback which will support the entry into the market. “By eliminating delays in access to accurate and complete AST information, BacterOMIC will enable better antibiotic stewardship, improved outcomes, mitigation of antibiotic resistance, and shorter hospitalisations,” explains Garstecki. “Our goal is for BacterOMIC to provide quick access to key information for treating resistant infections and overcoming antimicrobial resistance,” he adds.
BacterOMIC, bacteria, resistance, antibiotic, susceptibility, testing, machine, system