With the convergence of electronics, biology and mobile technologies, nowhere is the transformative potential of rapid point of care testing better illustrated than in the challenge to overcome antibiotic resistance.
It is widely acknowledged that growing resistance to antibiotics poses a global health threat. The World Health Organisation has said that our ability to treat infections that were once believed to be under control is now at risk and a ‘post-antibiotic era’ is becoming a real possibility for the 21st century.
On the same theme, the latest report from the Review of Antimicrobial Resistance* (AMR) highlighted a study in the USA that found that more than two-thirds of courses of antibiotics were likely to have been inappropriately prescribed. This amounted to 27 million courses of antibiotics being wasted each year in just one set of indications and in only one country.
Against this background there is now widespread recognition that new point of care diagnostic technology can play a leading role in finding a solution to this problem.
Central to this aim is the need to fundamentally change the prescribing habits of doctors and the expectations of patients – and advanced technology to address this specific requirement is well on the way to becoming a reality as new rapid diagnostic technology will change the way we use antibiotics today.
As an example I can cite the new biosensor diagnostic technology from OJ Bio, which uses specially developed nano-proteins incorporated on electronic biochips to detect the presence of a disease. When a biological sample is applied to the biochip, the presence of a target biomarker causes an electronic signal to be generated. This is then converted into a test result and displayed on a complementary smartphone app or PC-based program.
Simple to use, accurate and capable of delivering a test result in minutes, as well as indicating the presence and severity of a disease, the technology can also be used for the actual measurement of any target biomarker present.
As a result, as well as immediate diagnosis of the severity of an infectious disease, the device can also be used for important disease monitoring and treatment effectiveness applications.
In addition, having the results in an electronic format enables the wireless transmission of the test data to central records and database systems for health administration and screening purposes.
The lead application for the new technology is a test for C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a recognised biomarker of inflammatory disease and which can be used to rule out serious bacterial infections.
Although the CRP test is not new, its availability on a point of care diagnosis device will remove the present standard practice of prescribing antibiotics based on symptoms rather than evidence.
This means that GPs and healthcare professionals, often under pressure to make an ‘on the spot’ diagnosis, will now have ability to demonstrate and explain to patients why antibiotics will not be appropriate, reducing their unnecessary use.
I believe that by empowering medical professionals to make informed decisions, new test technology will encourage much better understanding among patients and create a more collaborative approach to reducing unnecessary prescribing.
In this way, mobile point of care testing has the potential to transform the healthcare landscape.
Lear more about OJ-Bio at www.oj-bio.com
Dr. Dale Athey was a speaker at the European MedTech Forum 2015. He was a panel member during the session “From device to social technology – heads of innovation debating the future of medtech”, discussing the fast pace of change in society and what this means for the medtech industry.
*Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. Rapid Diagnostics: Stopping unnecessary use of antibiotics, 23 October 2015 www.amr-review.org/home