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A simple swab test developed by Randox scientists could help curb the antibiotic resistance pandemic.

The test, which can rapidly detect and identify the cause of 21 respiratory infections in just 5 hours, can subsequently determine the appropriate antibiotic drug treatment for patients.

Following the Lancet Infectious Diseases report last week that antibiotic resistance is growing at a rapid rate, with many ‘superbugs’ completely unresponsive to antibiotics, it is more important than ever that antibiotics are only prescribed when they will effectively treat an infection.

With 70% of GPs admitting that they prescribe antibiotics when they are unsure if they are treating a viral or bacterial infection, many patients are therefore taking antibiotics when they are ineffective in treating viral infections.

Given that only bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, rapid diagnostic tests are urgently needed to identify bacterial and viral infections.

Professor Peter Coyle, who leads one of the UK’s Regional Virology Laboratories in Belfast diagnosing infectious diseases, warns against antibiotic misuse:

“The commonest types of respiratory infection are of viral origin and antibiotics are ineffective in their treatment. Improving the diagnosis of respiratory infections is an important goal in improving patient management and reducing antimicrobial resistance. The threat of antimicrobial resistance and the loss of effective antibiotics has become a major and growing concern in health care provision.”

The new rapid and accurate test will give both patient and GP confidence of their diagnosis of respiratory infections and will allow for quicker treatment if necessary.

Making this test available through GPs would have additional efficiency savings for the NHS, by eliminating the need for lengthy microbiology lab tests and unnecessarily prescribing drugs which are not needed.

John Lamont, Chief Scientist at Randox Laboratories, whose team developed the test, commented;

“Current diagnostic testing for respiratory infections take at least 36 hours to confirm the nature of an infection, and they cannot name and categorise infections as bacterial or viral in the way that this new respiratory test can. C-reactive protein tests, for example, that are currently in use can only indicate whether a bacterial infection is likely. We need more than just guess work to combat the antibiotic resistance pandemic.”