New paper-based platform to detect antibiotic-resistant bacteria

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antibiotic-resistant bacteria

 Researchers have developed a paper-based platform that could help quickly detect the presence of antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria. One of the greatest challenges facing the world is the rise of disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Their emergence has been fuelled by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, the researchers said.

As per the WHO, a handful of such bacteria — including E. Coli and Staphylococcus aureus — have caused over a million deaths, and these numbers are projected to rise in the coming years. Timely diagnosis can improve the efficiency of treatment, the researchers said.

“Generally, the doctor diagnoses the patient and gives them medicines. The patient then takes it for 2-3 days before realising that the medicine is not working and goes back to the doctor,” said Uday Maitra, a professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore. “Even diagnosing that the bacteria is antibiotic-resistant from blood or urine tests takes time. We wanted to reduce that time-to-diagnosis,” Maitra said in a statement.

The latest research, published in the journal ACS Sensors, addressed this challenge by developing a rapid diagnosis protocol that uses a luminescent paper-based platform to detect the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There are different ways by which a bacterium becomes resistant to antibiotics. In one, the bacterium evolves, and can recognise and eject the medicine out of its cell.

In another, the bacterium produces an enzyme called beta-lactamase, which hydrolyses or breaks down the beta-lactam ring — a key structural component of common antibiotics like penicillin and carbapenem — rendering the medication ineffective.

The approach developed by researchers at the IISc and Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) in Karnataka involves incorporating biphenyl-4-carboxylic acid (BCA) within a supramolecular hydrogel matrix containing terbium cholate (TbCh).