Researchers discover new way to test bacteria's drug resistance

Soon, researchers may be able to determine if a bacteria is susceptible to antibiotics in a matter of hours.

Researchers will soon be able to determine if a bacteria is susceptible to antibiotics, as biologists and bio-researchers at the University of California (UC) San Diego have developed a method that could determine drug resistance within a few hours.

“Previously, we developed a microscopy-based method that performs an autopsy on bacterial cells that allows us to determine how each cell died, and we have shown that this method can identify new antibiotics and help understand how these antibiotics work,” Kit Pogliano, professor of biology at UC San Diego and co-head of the research team, said. “We tested to see if this method could be applied to antibiotic susceptibility testing.

“Surprisingly, we not only found that our method was able to accurately differentiate sensitive S. aureus strains from resistant MRSA strains, but that we were able to identify two subgroups of MRSA strains, one of which is susceptible to combinations of antibiotics that could be used in the hospital. We are excited by the accuracy and speed of this test, as well as by its unanticipated ability to identify these two types of MRSA infections, which would have been missed by other tests.”

A paper was released this week in the online journal EBioMedicine on the susceptibility test for staph infection, which is a large cause of hospital infections.

“Regardless of the type of bacterium, a healthy and growing bacterium looks different from a dead bacterium, so whenever we detect a difference in how the cells look, we know that the bacterium is sensitive to the antibiotic we have applied,” Joe Pogliano, professor of biology and co-head of the research team, said. “When we combine careful culture conditions, cutting-edge imaging methods and a detailed quantitative analysis, we can turn this simple approach into a reliable test.”

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University of California, San Diego 9500 Gilman Drive La Jolla, CA 92093

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