London, Oct 31 A team of students from University of Sheffield in Britain, including one of Indian-origin, is building a device that could differentiate between bacterial and non-bacterial infections, which in turn could help to tackle antibiotic resistance by reducing the number of patients with viral infections being prescribed antibiotics.
"The main aim behind this project is to create more informed prescriptions to address the ever increasing resistance against antibiotics that we face today," said one of the researchers Saylee Jangam.
"Antibiotic resistance is a huge problem and this is why we chose to base our project on it. We may not be able to reverse it, but with our device, we could potentially slow it down," Jangam said in a university statement.
The diagnostic tool uses genetically engineered bacteria to detect the presence of a bacterial infection in a patient's blood sample.
"What's even more interesting is that we are using genetically engineered bacteria to detect the presence of bacterial infections in blood - that's right - using bacteria to detect bacteria," she noted.
The tool can distinguish between a viral and bacterial infection by detecting a protein known as lipocalin. This protein is produced in high levels by cells of the immune system in response to bacterial infections.
The protein's function is to bind to small molecules which bacteria use to access iron in order to grow.
The Sheffield team is developing the device so that genetically modified bacteria mixes with a patient's blood sample and turn florescent when there are low levels of the lipocalin protein - indicating a viral not bacterial infection.