Urinary tract infections could be treated more quickly and efficiently using a DNA sequencing device the size of a USB stick, says a study.
"We found that this device, which is the size of a USB stick, could detect the bacteria in heavily infected urine - and provide its DNA sequence in just 12 hours. This is a quarter of the time needed for conventional microbiology," said one of the researchers Justin O'Grady from University of East Anglia in England.
The new device called MinION detected bacteria from urine samples four times more quickly than traditional methods of culturing bacteria.
The new method can also detect antibiotic resistance - allowing patients to be treated more effectively, the researchers said.
"Swift results like these will make it possible to refine a patient's treatment much earlier - and that is good for the patient, who gets the 'right' antibiotic," O'Grady said.
"This technology is rapid and capable not only of identifying the bacteria in UTIs (urinary tract infections), but also detecting drug-resistance at the point of clinical need," O'Grady noted.
Professor David Livermore from University of East Anglia's Norwich Medical School explained that urinary tract infections are among the most common reasons for prescribing antibiotics.
"Antibiotics are vital, especially if bacteria has entered the bloodstream, and must be given urgently. But unfortunately it takes two days to grow the bacteria in the lab and test which antibiotics kill them," Livermore noted.
As a result, doctors must prescribe a broad range antibiotics, targeting the bacteria most likely to be responsible, and then adjust treatment once the lab results come through, he pointed out.
"This 'carpet-bombing' approach represents poor antibiotic stewardship, and it is vital that we move beyond it. The way to do so lies in accelerating laboratory investigation, so that treatment can be refined earlier, benefitting the patient, who gets an effective antibiotic, and society, whose diminishing stock of antibiotics is better managed," Livermore said.
The findings were presented at an international medical conference run jointly by the American Society for Microbiology's Interscience Conference of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) and the International Society of Chemotherapy (ICC) at San Diego in the US.