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NIH Funds Projects to Develop Antimicrobial-Resistance Diagnostics

Rapid tests receive $11 million investment

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded more than $11 million in first-year funding for nine research projects supporting enhanced diagnostics to rapidly detect antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. The award recipients will develop tools to identify certain pathogens that often cause infections in health care settings and, specifically, those that are resistant to most antimicrobials. Advancing the development of rapid diagnostic tests for identifying and characterizing resistant bacteria is a key goal of President Obama’s recent National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

Antimicrobials have been used to successfully treat patients for more than 70 years, but the drugs have become less effective as organisms adapt to the drugs designed to kill them. Each year in the U.S., more than 2 million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections, and at least 23,000 people die as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotic-resistant infections also contribute to rising health care costs because of the need for more expensive treatments and prolonged hospital stays.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a serious global health threat that is undermining our ability to effectively detect, treat, and prevent infections,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD. “One way we can combat drug resistance is by developing enhanced diagnostic tests that rapidly identify the bacteria causing an infection and their susceptibility to various antimicrobials. This will help physicians determine the most effective treatments for infected individuals and thereby reduce the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics that can contribute to the drug-resistance problem.”

Each of the institutions receiving the NIAID awards will develop a diagnostic tool that identifies and provides corresponding antibiotic susceptibility information for one or more of the following bacteria: Klebsiella pneumoniae; Acinetobacter baumannii; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; Enterobacter species; and Escherichia coli. The current process for diagnosing some bacterial infections can take up to 3 days and requires patient samples to be sent to labs, where the suspected bacteria is cultured, or grown in a special medium. To make this process more rapid and efficient, diagnostic tools developed by these institutions must provide results in 3 hours or less and be culture-independent (i.e., able to directly detect the specified pathogen from typically sterile sites, such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or the fluid surrounding the lungs).

The NIAID awards were made to three companies and six academic organizations. Each organization partnered with an industrial institution with experience in product development to be eligible for the award. The list of recipients includes:

  • BioFire Diagnostics, LLC, Salt Lake City
    Project: “FilmArray Direct: Rapid Diagnosis of Antimicrobial-Resistant Pathogens From Blood”
  • Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
    Project: “Multiplexed, Non-Amplified, Nucleic Acid-Based Identification of Multidrug-Resistant Pathogens Using an Integrated Optofluidic Platform”
  • Denver Health and Hospital Authority
    Project: “Ultrarapid Culture-Independent Detection of High-Priority Carbapenem- Resistant Enterobacteriaceae Directly From Blood”
  • First Light Biosciences, Inc., Bedford, Massachusetts
    Project: “Rapid Detection of Pathogens and Antimicrobial Susceptibility Directly in Patient Samples”
  • GeneFluidics, Inc., Irwindale, California
    Project: “A Fully Integrated CentriFluidic System for Direct Bloodstream Infection PID/AST”
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
    Project: “A Droplet-Based Single-Cell Platform for Pathogen Identification and AST”
  • The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Project: “RNA-Based Diagnostics for Rapid Pathogen Identification and Drug Resistance”
  • University of California, Berkeley
    Project: “Consortium for Drug-Resistant Gram-Negative Pathogen Detection”
  • University of California, Irvine
    Project: “Integrated Comprehensive Droplet Digital Detection (IC 3D) System for Rapid Detection of Bacteria and Antimicrobial Resistance”

The NIAID conducts and supports research throughout the world to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing, and treating these illnesses.

Source: NIH; April 9, 2015.

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