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Chennai team develops device to test antibiotic resistance in just 6 hours

It identifies resistant strains of bacteria within six hours, helping physicians choose the right drug, all at a cost of Rs 100 to 300.
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CHENNAI: Dealing with antibiotic resistance – one of the biggest challenges in modern healthcare – will get a tad easier, thanks to a team of professors at Anna University, Chennai, which has developed a device called antibiogramoscope. 

It identifies resistant strains of bacteria within six hours, helping physicians choose the right drug, all at a cost of Rs 100 to 300. The existing tests cost Rs 500 to Rs 2,000 and they take up to 48 hours to detect antibiotic resistance. 

The Anna University team presented a perfect example of symbiosis, as professors of biotechnology, medical electronics, manufacturing, electronics and communication engineering, instrumentation and medical physics joined hands. University Grants Commission (UGC) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) supported the venture. 


The team developed a liquid antibiotic sensitivity testing (AST) medium. To this, a commercially available fluorescent molecule is added along with the sample (body fluid). This is transferred to the antibiogramoscope’s microwells (there are 96 of them), each coated with one type of antibiotic. 

When bacteria grow in the medium, it produces a compound called erucamide, which binds to the fluorescent molecule, turning off its fluorescence. “This means if we see fluorescence in some microwells, those antibiotics are effective in killing the bacteria. No fluorescence means the bacteria is growing despite the antibiotic—that’s resistance,” explained K Sankaran, the lead researcher of the project. 

The existing method uses a solid medium to grow bacteria, and it takes 24 hours before the antibiotics are added. The entire process takes 48 hours. “The liquid medium in antibiogramoscope and the merger of two steps speed up the whole process,” said Sankaran. 

It also reduces cost by bringing down the medium from 20ml to 2ml. Moreover, the antibiotic test on the liquid medium gives superior results. The system is automated, needing no human intervention once the samples and medium are loaded. Once done, each well of the device shows different patterns of brightness and darkness, indicating the efficiency of the drug or the bacteria’s resistance to it. 

It would send by email the final report, along with images, to the doctors and the hospital concerned. 

Antibiogramoscope has cleared validation tests at National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited microbiological lab in Coimbatore. 

“They have validated the device against 500 samples with 25 antibiotics, besides comparing it with international gold standards,” said the lead researcher. Commercial production is expected after completing further validation at various centres including CMC, Vellore, and AIIMS, New Delhi. “We aim to produce the device at a cost of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh against imported machines that cost more than Rs 20 lakh,” said S Muttan, coordinator of UPE in BMEI project, Anna University. 

Source :ET

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