In emergency departments, it can take up to five days to identify the bacterial infection causing illness and determine the appropriate treatment. This delay can be life-threatening, especially for patients with sepsis or blood poisoning. According to microbiologist Dr. Kieran Mulroney, every hour without the right antibiotic increases the risk of death by 6.7%.
To address this critical issue, a team of researchers at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, UWA, and PathWest is developing a cutting-edge test called ‘flow cytometry-assisted antimicrobial susceptibility testing’ (FAST). Unlike traditional methods that require bacteria to be grown in liquid or on special plates before testing, FAST can identify effective antibiotics within 2-5 hours.
The impact of the FAST test goes beyond saving lives in emergency situations. By providing rapid and accurate antibiotic information, it helps prevent the unnecessary use of broad-acting antibiotics. The overuse of these antibiotics contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs.” The World Health Organization has recognized antimicrobial resistance as a top global threat to public health.
This revolutionary technology is being commercialized by Cytophenix, a spin-off company based in Western Australia. Dr. Kieran Mulroney, who has been dedicated to this research for eight years, was recognized as a finalist in the Early Career Scientist of the Year category at the 2023 Premier’s Science Awards. For him, the personal impact of his work is evident in the stories of patients and their families affected by serious infections.
While the FAST test represents a significant advancement in antibiotic treatment, the research team continues to improve and expand its capabilities. Their goal is to stem the tide of antimicrobial resistance by developing new applications and technologies.
In conclusion, the development of the FAST test offers hope for faster, more targeted antibiotic treatment in emergency situations. Its implementation not only saves lives but also contributes to the global fight against antimicrobial resistance.
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