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 awardee institutions will develop tools to identify certain pathogens that frequently cause infections in health care settings and, specifically, those that are resistant to most antimicrobials. Advancing the development of rapid and innovative diagnostic tests for identifying and characterizing resistant bacteria is a key goal of the President’s recent National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (PDF - 442KB) External Web Site Policy.
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 United States, more than 2 million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 people die as a result, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotic-resistant infections also contribute to rising health care costs due to 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, M.D. “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 pneumonia; Acinetobacter baumannii; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; Enterobacter species; and Escherichia coli. The current process for diagnosing some bacterial infections can take up to three 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 three hours or less and be culture-independent (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 academic organization partnered with an industrial institution with demonstrated experience in product development to be eligible for the award. The list of recipients can be found here.