Diagnostic for antimicrobial resistance

Annette Pluddemann

Annette Pluddemann Director: Diagnostic Horizon Scan Programme

Tackling antimicrobial resistance is an important global public health challenge.  The World Health Organisation has highlighted that antimicrobial resistance is threatening the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections – already there are many bacteria that cause, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, sexually transmitted infections and bloodstream infections which are resistant to several antibiotics.  At the same time, very few new antibiotics are being developed. This worrying trend was highlighted by the Chief Medical Officer for England in 2011.

To address this problem, it will be important to develop strategies that help reduce the use of antibiotics and also make sure that antibiotics are only prescribed when they are appropriate. We recently compiled a report for the Department of Health to provide an overview of diagnostic technologies relevant to improving appropriate prescribing of antibiotics.  We identified nearly 70 technologies which could potentially be used either by GPs or in hospitals and some are already available while others are still in development.  Looking at all of these technologies and the current evidence, some important points emerged, including:

  • Strategies involving a combination of doctor, patient and public education seem to be the most successful in reducing inappropriate antibiotic prescribing
  • Making laboratory results available more quickly or in some cases using tests in GP surgeries which give quicker results can help make sure antibiotics are only prescribed when they are necessary
  • The methods for developing and collecting the evidence needed to help inform which tests will be useful in practice need to be more streamlined
  • Given that there are so many new tests and technologies and more are being developed all the time, an ongoing programme to identify and assess these tests is needed, along with more efficient methods to develop the evidence base to inform implementation
  • As many doctors use smartphones, new smartphone applications could be developed which could help with improving knowledge on antibiotic prescribing

Overall however it was striking how many tests were available or in development, but there was not much progress in developing evidence that would help understand which of these technologies would be of most use and how they should be implemented to ultimately influence practice.

Read Full Report – AMR Diagnostic technologies_10 June 2015