New Test Can Evaluate MRSA Superbug DNA In Just Three-Minutes, Pinpoint Best Antibiotic Option

A new MRSA test will revolutionize the way that hospitals handle the treatment of superbugs. The test, which takes only three minutes, evaluate’s the superbug’s DNA and provides doctors with information on the best antibiotic treatment available for the specific strain. Researchers say that this will cut back on the use of unnecessary antibiotics that doctors typically use to treat MRSA as a “catch-all.”

The Daily Mail reports that a new MRSA test may soon be used to treat a whole host of superbugs like E. coli and even sexually transmitted drugs. The test was created to offer better treatment options to patients suffering from MRSA in hospitals. The MRSA superbug is notorious for having drug-resistant strains. However, not all MRSA strains are drug-resistant meaning that everyone with MRSA does not to receive broad-spectrum antibiotics. Instead, if doctors knew the specific strain of MRSA they were dealing with, they could give the patient the proper antibiotic without using an unnecessarily powerful drug.

“Currently, broad-spectrum ‘catch-all’ antibiotics are often prescribed to patients with MRSA, but the drugs may be more powerful than required.”

This use of extremely powerful antibiotics to treat superbugs has been blamed for the bug’s ability to mutate and turn into strains that are immune to antibiotics. In fact, just last month in England, the Public Health England noted two cases in which patients were infected with E. coli that was resistant to one of the most powerful antibiotics available, polymyxins which are given to patients as a last resort measure.

Therefore, with superbugs and drug-resistance a mounting concern, quick testing is becoming vital to care. The new test, which was created by Oxford University scientists, gives doctors reliable and quick results that will prevent over-use of potentially dangerous drugs. The test uses a computer program to analyze the DNA of the superbug and provides the doctor with information on the exact strain they are treating. This gives doctors the ability to use the correct antibiotic option on the first try. The test was also designed to help treat tuberculosis patients.

Though the tests were designed specifically for MRSA and TB, the researchers working on the project say that the possibilities are endless and that other superbugs are in the works.

“Although this test deals only with TB and MRSA, we expect these methods to be extended to E.coli, pneumonia, gonorrhoea and other STDs.”

Prior to the innovative Oxford test, identifying the exact strain of superbug was very expensive and time-consuming. However, doctors don’t always have a lot of time when dealing with these potentially life-threatening cases. Therefore, the process of drawing blood or saliva samples and processing them in a lab by mixing them with different antibiotics was too daunting. With the new Oxford test, the results can be read off in just minutes and no additional lab time is needed.

When studied in the trial, the computer program was found to be 99 percent accurate in detecting antibiotic resistant strains of MRSA and was 82 percent accurate in detecting TB. To make the test even more appealing, the designers say it can be used by anyone and doesn’t require any special expertise. In fact, hospitals only need a tablet or computer and the small device that is the size of a USB stick.

What do you think about the innovative new MRSA testing designed by the Oxford team? Do you think quick testing is on the horizon for other superbugs like E. coli?

[Image via AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth]